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PA & Sonia Sharma

Nicola Bulley inquest starts to look into cause of death following her disappearance

An inquest has begun into the death of mother-of-two Nicola Bulley.

The 45-year-old vanished after dropping her daughters, aged six and nine, at school, then taking her usual dog walk along the River Wyre in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27. Her phone, still connected to a work Teams call, was found on a bench overlooking the water.

Ms Bulley, a mortgage adviser originally from near Chelmsford but living in Inskip, was immediately deemed a "high risk" missing person, sparking a huge police search operation, with hundreds of local search volunteers and intense media and public interest. Private underwater search specialists were also called in by her family amid a social media frenzy fuelling waves of sightseers and content creators visiting the scene.

Read More: Nicola Bulley inquest: Live updates from the hearing into the mum's tragic death

Both police and media faced criticism after her body was found in the river around a mile farther downstream from the bench, on February 19. Police had urged people not to speculate about the disappearance and maintained from early on there were no suspicious circumstances and that Ms Bulley may have gone into the water due to an "issue" with her springer spaniel dog, Willow.

Paul Ansell, her partner of 12 years, gave TV interviews appealing for help - saying their daughters wanted their mummy home. As the days passed and speculation continued online, Lancashire Police revealed Ms Bulley had struggled with alcohol and perimenopause.

This prompted widespread criticism for disclosing her personal information, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak questioned about the police approach and the force facing investigation. An independent review of Lancashire Police's handling of the case is currently under way by the College of Policing, ordered by Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden.

Part of the review will include inquiries made by the Information Commissioner's Office over the force's disclosure of Ms Bulley's personal information. The Independent Office for Police Conduct also looked at a welfare check on Nicola Bulley carried out by police 17 days before she went missing.

The inquest, expected to last two days, began on Monday at the County Hall, Preston, before Dr James Adeley, Senior Coroner for Lancashire. Ms Bulley's partner and sister are set to give evidence during the hearing.

Paul Ansell and Louise Cunningham are both listed as witnesses, and are due to give evidence on Tuesday. The County Hall was busy with members of the public and media on Monday morning ahead of the inquest.

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