Search icon


15th Apr 2023

Nicola Bulley police issue statement explaining reason for new river search

Steve Hopkins

The Lancashire force branded reports ‘misinformed speculation’

Police investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Nicola Bulley have released a statement clarifying why they’ve returned to the river where she went missing amid speculation they are searching for a specific item.

Earlier this week it was suggested by a forensic pathologist that Lancashire Police would be looking for an “artefact of some sort”, that they cannot find but believe is in the river, and don’t want a member of the public to find.

Specialist divers were seen at the River Wyre 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 Police said they released a statement in response to “misinformed speculation”.

A spokesperson from Lancashire Police said Friday: “There has been misinformed speculation over the past few days relating to police activity in the River Wyre.

“As previously stated, police divers were acting under instruction of HM Senior Coroner and had been asked to assess the riverbanks in the vicinity of where Nicola Bulley went missing.

“They had not been tasked either to perform any further searches within the river or along the banks or to locate any articles. This activity is to assist with the coronial process.”

It was earlier reported that Lancashire coroner, Dr James Adeley, had asked police to return to the scene to help confirm Nicola’s cause of death and what had happened before she was discovered.

However, 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 would 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 police were looking for an “artefact of some sort” as it would be unlikely they 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.

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:

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

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