20 February 2023

Nicola Bulley: Which groups have been criticised since she went missing?

20 February 2023

The search for Nicola Bulley has concluded after police confirmed her body was found in a Lancashire river, but questions remain about a number of aspects of the case.

The police handling of her disappearance, the search around St Michael’s on Wyre, and the coverage through both traditional news outlets and social media channels have all attracted criticism.

Here, the PA news agency looks at key parts of the case that have come under scrutiny since Ms Bulley disappeared on January 27.

– The police handling of the investigation

Lancashire Constabulary has been criticised for disclosing personal information about Ms Bulley.

Following a press conference last week, the force revealed the mother-of-two’s struggles with alcohol and perimenopause.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “concerned that private information was put into the public domain” by officers.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman spoke to the constabulary about her concerns but said she was not “wholly satisfied” with responses given by the chief constable.

– Social media sleuths and speculation

Police accused “TikTokers” of “playing private detectives” near the scene of Ms Bulley’s disappearance.

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith said investigating officers have been “inundated with false information, accusations and rumours” relating to the case.

She said: “Some of it’s been quite shocking and really hurtful to the family.

“Obviously, we can’t disregard anything and we’ve reviewed everything that’s come in, but of course it has distracted us significantly.”

Social media influencer Dan Duffy was given a fixed penalty notice under section 4 of the Public Order Act – fear or provocation of violence – after he was arrested while filming for his YouTube channel, called Exploring With Danny.

– Media intrusion

In a statement read by Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables after her body was identified, the family of 45-year-old Ms Bulley called for the press to “be held accountable”.

They said some media outlets and members of the public had accused Nicola’s partner, Paul Ansell, of wrongdoing and “misquoted and vilified friends and family”.

They also criticised Sky News and ITV for contacting them after the body was discovered “when we expressly asked for privacy”.

“They again, have taken it upon themselves to run stories about us to sell papers and increase their own profiles. It is shameful they have acted in this way,” the family said.

– The search

Despite extensive searches of the area, it took more than three weeks for Ms Bulley’s body to be found in the River Wyre, about a mile away from where she was last seen.

Underwater search expert Peter Faulding was called in by the family to assist but said he was “baffled” after he failed to find her.

Neither his team or police divers found any trace of Ms Bulley in the section of the river they searched over three days.

Mr Faulding said he had only cleared the area around the bench where her mobile phone was found, and that the tidal section beyond the weir was “an open book”, according to MailOnline.

“We weren’t searching the reeds, our job was to search the water,” he said.

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