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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
William Mata

Nicola Bulley’s partner shares theory about what happened before she died

PA Media

Nicola Bulley's partner has told her inquest what he believes may have happened to the missing mother-of-two before she died.

The 45-year-old lost her life after accidentally falling into the river in freezing temperatures, a coroner ruled on Tuesday but why she fell remains a mystery.

Speaking at court on Tuesday, grieving partner Paul Ansell speculated that her beloved dog may have unintentionally played a part in the tragedy.

Nicola Bulley was walking her dog Willow before her accident
— (PA Media)

Ms Bulley went missing on 27 January while walking Willow along the Lancashire river, sparking a widely-publicised police search.

Her body was eventually found on February 19, a mile downstream of a bench where her phone had been left near the water’s edge.

Willow was later found by a member of the public, safe and sound. Ms Bulley's mobile phone was still connected to a work Teams call when it was found on a bench overlooking the water.

The condition of the dog was discussed on the first day of the inquest on Monday.

Penny Fletcher, who runs a nearby campsite, told the court in Preston, Lancashire: “I saw a springer spaniel loose, it was near the bench and going right towards the river where it drops down very steeply. I wouldn’t say it was acting chaotic at all, it was a bit giddy, yes.”

Testifying at the inquest on Tuesday, Mr Ansell said he believes she went to put a harness on her dog shortly before falling into the River Wyre.

Ms Bulley with her partner Paul Ansell
— (Nicola Bulley/Facebook)

Ms Bulley treated her eight-year-old springer spaniel as a “third child” and doted on her dog. She would never intentionally have left the dog unattended and alone on the riverbank, according to her family.

“She was still listening to that meeting, so I think she must have maybe put the phone on the bench and gone to put the harness back on Willow,” he told the court.

On the day she disappeared, Mr Ansell sent her a text message saying: "Have you got lost?", the inquest heard.

Paying tribute to his partner, Mr Ansell broke down at the hearing, saying: ”She was an incredible mum.

Ms Bulley was an ‘incredible mum’, the inquest heard
— (Lancashire Constabulary)

“Nikki was a quiet person who enjoyed the simple side of life. She was a very private person and kept herself to herself.”

Both Mr Ansell and Ms Bulley’s sister Louise Cunningham said Nicola had been looking forward to the future at the time of her death and was "devoted" to her children and family.

Despite a "blip" when her drinking increased around Christmas last year, she was back to her normal self the following month, the inquest heard.

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