Lancashire Police confirm body found is that of missing mother Nicola Bulley

  • Report by Granada Reports Journalist Emma Sweeney

Lancashire Police have confirmed that a body found in the River Wyre on Sunday is that of missing mum Nicola Bulley.

The 45-year-old had been missing for more than three weeks when the discovery was made by two dog walkers near the village of St Michael's on Wyre.

In a press conference late on Monday afternoon, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson confirmed the tragic news.

He said: "We recognise the huge impact that Nicola’s disappearance has had on her family and friends, but also on the people of St Michael’s.

"We would like to thank all of those who have helped during what has been a hugely complex and highly emotional investigation.

"Today’s development is not the outcome any of us would have wanted, but we hope that it can at least start to provide some answers for Nicola’s loved ones, who remain foremost in our thoughts.

"The case is now being handled by HM Coroner."

The force had always maintained that they believed that she would be found in the river.

Ms Bulley's partner, Paul Ansell, told Sky News of his "agony" after the discovery was made in the River Wyre, close to Rawcliffe Road in St Michael's on Wyre at around 11.35am on Sunday.

In a statement read out on behalf of the family by police, they said: “Our family liaison officers have had to confirm our worst fears today.

“We will never be able to comprehend what Nikki had gone through in her last moments and that will never leave us.

“We will never forget Nikki, how could we, she was the centre of our world, she was the one who made our lives so special and nothing will cast a shadow over that.

“Our girls will get the support they need from the people who love them the most.

“And it saddens us to think that one day we will have to explain to them that the press and members of the public accused their dad of wrongdoing, misquoted and vilified friends and family.

“This is absolutely appalling, they have to be held accountable this cannot happen to another family.

“We tried last night to take in what we had been told in the day, only to have Sky News and ITV making contact with us directly 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 profits. It is shameful they have acted in this way. Leave us alone now.

“Do the press and other media channels and so called professionals not know when to stop? These are our lives and our children’s lives.

“To those who genuinely helped and supported us, privately, we thank you. The community support in St Michael’s, friends, neighbours and strangers has been nothing short of comforting and heart-warming. Friends you know who you are. Thank you.

“Our hearts truly break for others who have missing loved ones. Keep that hope alive.

“Finally, Nikki, you are no longer a missing person, you have been found, we can let you rest now.

“We love you, always have and always will, we will take it from here.”

A huge police presence has remained in the small Lancashire village since her disappearance

The investigation into Ms Bulley's disappearance has attracted widespread speculation as well as criticism of the police response.

The force came under fire after making her vulnerabilities public three weeks after she vanished.

In a press conference last week police revealed the mother-of-two was classed as a "high-risk" missing person immediately after Mr Ansell reported her disappearance, "based on a number of specific vulnerabilities".

Today, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she was not "wholly satisfied" with responses given by the chief constable when she demanded an explanation as to why some of Ms Bulley's personal details were put into the public domain.

Meanwhile Downing Street declined to comment on the possibility of an independent external review of Lancashire Police and its handling of the Nicola Bulley case.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "You have heard the concerns of the Prime Minister before.

"He welcomed the fact there was an internal investigation, I think the first step is to allow that to take place and see what the findings are, so I am not going to comment before that."

"We think it is appropriate that this investigation is taking place.

"We will wait and see what the findings of that are before commenting further on the investigation, given it is a live case," the spokesman added.