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17th Feb 2023

Nicola Bulley’s friend says police shared her alcohol struggles to ‘shift focus’ off them

Charlie Herbert

Lancashire Police have been widely criticised for their decision to release private information about Nicola Bulley

A friend of Nicola Bulley has said they believe police shared private details of her struggles with alcohol connected to menopause so they could “shift the focus away from the lack of progress in the case”.

The mortgage adviser, 45, was last seen walking her dog along the River Wyre in the village of St Michael’s on the Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27.

On Wednesday, police held a press conference where they revealed for the first time that the mum-of-two was categorised as “high risk” due to “a number of specific vulnerabilities”.

They did not elaborate further to the media, and said they would not be revealing what these vulnerabilities were out of respect for the privacy of her family.

But later that day, Lancashire Police stated on Facebook that Ms Bulley “in the past suffered with some significant issues with alcohol which were brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause”.

They added that these issues had “resurfaced in recent months”.

A friend of Nicola’s family, who wished to remain anonymous, has since spoken to the Mirror about their anger at police for revealing this, arguing that it doesn’t help their investigation.

She said: “I feel angry for Nikki. She’s a beautiful, kind, loving person. One of the best kind of friends you could wish for.

“This has painted her in an unfair light. I think the police have done this to shift the focus onto this rather than on them and their lack of progress.”

The friend also criticised Lancashire Police for their working hypothesis that Nicola fell into the river, suggesting that police “want people to buy into” this theory so that the “focus will be on this rather than trying to find Nikki.”

They urged the focus to be “given to areas not covered by CCTV”, and for police to follow up on dash cam footage they had appealed for.

In a statement on Thursday, Nicola’s family said they had been made aware by Lancashire Police that they would be releasing personal details about her.

The family went on to appeal to people to stop “threatening to sell stories” about Nicola, labelling this “appalling.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has raised concerns with Lancashire Police after they revealed the personal information about Nicola.

The BBC reports that a source close to Suella Braverman said she had “asked for an explanation”.

They said the home secretary had received a response on Thursday evening but was not wholly satisfied with the force’s justification for releasing the personal details.

A number of other MPs have voiced their anger at Lancashire Police as well.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told Sky News the release of such details was “very unusual”, adding: “I do have a lot of questions and concerns about that.

Labour MP Stella Creasy said: “The decision to disclose this level of detail on a missing person’s private life, with no evidence that this is assisting in finding her, is deeply troubling.

“The police need to be much clearer as to why any of this helps find Nicola Bulley or support this investigation.”

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns said on Twitter that she was “deeply uncomfortable with the police releasing Nicola’s so-called “‘vulnerabilities’ on menopause and alcohol” and was struggling to “ascertain how this will assist police in their search and investigations”.

And former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal said the statement should not have been issued, as it did nothing to help find Nicola, and added that the release would “give fuel to the victim blamers, armchair sleuths and conspiracy theorists”.

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