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13th Apr 2023

Forensic pathologist reveals divers are searching for one specific thing in Nicola Bulley case

Steve Hopkins

He thinks police don’t want a member of the public to find it

Police are reportedly looking for a “specific” item missing from the area where Nicola Bulley died, a forensic pathologist has suggested, as the investigation into the mum-of-two’s death continues.

Specialist divers were again seen at the River Wyre in Lancashire Tuesday, less than a mile from where Nicola disappeared while walking her dog on January 27. The search for her body lasted 23 days and came to a controversial end on February 19 after dog walkers spotted her, despite police and dive experts failing to do so after a highly-publicised and criticised search.

The 45-year-old had been walking her spaniel, Willow, near the river in St Michael’s-on-Wyre and was last seen around 9.20am. The dog was later found wandering off its lead. Nicola’s phone and her pet’s harness were found on a bench nearby. Nicola’s partner, Paul Ansell, later raised the alarm when she failed to return home.

Lancashire coroner, Dr James Adeley, asked Lancashire Police to return to the scene to help confirm Nicola’s cause of death and what had happened before she was discovered, but a forensic pathologist has suggested they are searching for a missing object.

Dr Richard Shepherd, who worked on cases such as the Stephen Lawrence investigations and was called as an expert in the trial of Harold Shipman, told the Mirror officers will be looking for something specific, but he was “struggling to see” what that could be, or how it could influence the cause of death finding.

Dr Shepherd added that a post-mortem would have uncovered any natural diseases in Nicola’s system, injuries and the presence of drugs or alcohol.

He said that he thought they were looking for an “artefact of some sort” that they cannot find but they believe is in the river, and that they did not want a member of the public to discover.

Dr Shepherd said it was unlikely that police were trying to reconstruct how her body travelled down the river, as there were too many variables to consider.

An inquest into Nicola’s death is to be heard on 26 June in Preston.

Lancashire Police confirmed this week that the divers had returned to the River Wyre as part of the investigation into Nicola’s death, and at the direction of the coroner.

A spokesman for HM Coroner said earlier this week: “The investigation will take time to complete to ensure that as complete a picture as possible of the facts concerning Ms Bulley’s death is presented at the inquest. This will assist the family in understanding what occurred.

“As part of this process, HM Senior Coroner has requested Lancashire Constabulary produce information gathered during the search for Ms Bulley so it can be considered as part of the investigation.”

Related links:

Nicola Bulley update after police divers return to river where she was found

Specialist who failed to find Nicola Bulley removed from NCA expert list

Pressure grows to launch probe into Lancashire Police for failing to find Nicola Bulley for 23 days