Revealed: Lancashire Police REFUSED extra help to search for Nicola Bulley in move branded ‘bizarre’ and ‘inexcusable’ after it took them 23 days to find her body in river next to where she vanished
- Lancashire Police’s actions were branded ‘inexcusable’ after they refused help
- The body of Nicola Bulley, 45, was found in the River Wyre on Sunday morning
Lancashire Police refused extra help to search for Nicola Bulley in a move branded ‘bizarre’ and ‘inexcusable’ after it took them 23 days to find her body in the river next to where she vanished.
The 45-year-old was discovered on Sunday morning in the River Wyre in Lancashire.
Search and rescue teams and other police forces offered to help the beleaguered Constabulary but officers dismissed their advances.
Lancashire Police said the ‘relevant areas’ had been searched and no more help was needed.
However it was not Lancashire Police but a member of the public, a self-confessed psychic medium, who discovered the mother-of-two’s body after a three-week search by Lancashire Police that never found her.
Lancashire Police refused extra help to search for Nicola Bulley in a move branded ‘bizarre’ and ‘inexcusable’, it has been revealed
The 45-year-old mother-of-two’s body was found in the River Wyre, Lancashire, on Sunday morning. Pictured: Nicola Bulley with her partner Paul Ansell
Search and rescue teams and other police forces offered to help the beleaguered Constabulary but officers dismissed their advances. Lancashire Police said the ‘relevant areas’ had been searched and no more help was needed. Pictured: Police divers from North West Police Underwater Unit travel along the river Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre
Nicola Bulley, 45, who vanished while walking her dog in St Michael’s in Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27
A search and rescue source said it was ‘inexcusable’.
They told The Sun: ‘To say they have covered off areas when a missing person is still missing is just bizarre.’
READ MORE: Nicola Bulley’s devastated family say police confirmed their ‘worst fears’
There has been widespread criticism of the force’s approach to the search for Ms Bulley and their handling of what the public and press were told.
The clamour for an independent inquiry into the police handling of the Nicola Bulley investigation intensified yesterday – as former Home Secretary Priti Patel joined the growing chorus of criticism against the force.
Lancashire Police came under intense scrutiny over the handling of the search and the disclosure of Ms Bulley’s personal struggles after she vanished from a riverside footpath in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
The force confirmed it will conduct an internal review but there are fears this could become a case of ‘marking its own homework’.
Describing the police conduct as ‘highly questionable’, Patel told The Sun there are ‘multiple unanswered questions about the handling and investigation’ into Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
‘As I have sadly seen in my time as Home Secretary, families have been let down badly by not treating these instances with the urgency required’.
There are mounting calls for an independent investigation into Lancashire Police and the way they handled the case from the outset.
Pressed on whether an internal review process would see Lancashire Police just ‘marking their own homework’, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: ‘We would expect the force to be transparent. That does not preclude further work at the end of that.’
The clamour for an independent inquiry into the police handling of the Nicola Bulley investigation intensified yesterday – after the body found in the river Wyre on Sunday was confirmed to be the mother-of-two
Describing the police conduct as ‘highly questionable’, Patel said there are ‘multiple unanswered questions about the handling and investigation’ into Ms Bulley’s disappearance
Meanwhile, former Scotland Yard detective Peter Bleksley said despite the force’s use of experts and a nationally-recognised search doctrine, they were not the ones to find Ms Bulley.
He told Sky News: ‘The bottom line is Lancashire Police and all their experts and all their doctrines did not find Nicola.
‘Two people walking along a river bank did.’
Former Scotland Yard detective Peter Bleksley slammed Lancashire Police for their search for Nicola Bulley, 45
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she is not ‘wholly satisfied’ with the explanation from Lancashire Police’s Chief Constable Chris Rowley about the disclosure of Miss Bulley’s personal information
‘Leading experts in their field helped with the search in terms of tide and river movements.
‘River movements can be complex but [Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith] also went on to say that a nationally-recognised searching doctrine had been followed.’
He added that police were vague in their statements to the press and the public from the start of the search for Ms Bulley.
Mr Bleksley said: ‘Right from the very off the first two press conferences were led by uniformed superintendent Sally Riley who at one point asked people to stop speculating.
‘Then in an answer to a question did exactly that and speculated herself.
‘She also made a factual mistake in that in that she told the public that the NCA had reviewed the investigation.
‘That was not true, as we later found out at the subsequent and catastrophic press conference on Wednesday last week when DSI Rebecca Smith said that the National Crime Agency had provided tactical and strategic advice.
‘My criticism has been about the messaging — the information, how it has been imparted to the media.’
Mr Bleksley said a press conference (pictured) with Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith was ‘catastrophic’
While he acknowledged the police had to deal with social media sleuths flocking to the scene, he said he hoped the force would be open to learning from what he said went wrong.
He said: ‘Some of the conspiracy theories and the nonsense that has been spouted on social media has been hurtful and utterly ridiculous.
‘I hope the police will be open honest transparent, tell themselves and us the public where they went wrong and improve.’
The 23-day probe into Ms Bulley’s disappearance ended with the discovery of the 45-year-old mortgage adviser’s body on Sunday – not by police but a self-described psychic.
READ MORE: Nicola Bulley’s sister shares poignant social media tribute to the mother-of-two as friends and former school ‘spread the love for Nikki’
There are now suggestions that a bishop could lead any examination – as happened with the Hillsborough football stadium disaster inquiry.
Dame Vera Baird, a former barrister who stepped down as victims’ commissioner in September, said it was ‘not a good idea’ for police to investigate themselves, even if inquiries were conducted by outside forces, as it risks failing to restore trust.
Despite a search involving numerous officers, Ms Bulley’s body was eventually found by psychic Jason Rothwell and a friend in reeds on the River Wyre, a mile from the riverside bench where her mobile phone had been recovered 23 days earlier.
At a press conference held last week to stop speculation, Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith, the senior investigating officer, revealed that the mother of two had ‘specific vulnerabilities’ and had been ‘graded as high-risk’.
Dame Vera said: ‘I think it is quite difficult to think of another force leading an investigation into Lancashire Police’s handling of the Bulley case as they may be as inexperienced in very major investigations as sometimes Lancashire appeared to be.
‘Somebody like Bishop James Jones, who did the inquiry into Hillsborough, could do it more quickly and obviously very sensitively as it is also about ethics, isn’t it? But I think whoever did it would need an adviser in public information management because it seems to be across those two pieces of territory.’
Ms Patel previously said the decision to divulge Ms Bulley’s personal information raised ‘some very, very serious questions’.
‘It is wholly inappropriate and too judgmental for them to have made the type of personal statements they have about Nicola,’ she said.
Deputy Tory chairman Lee Anderson has also backed calls for an investigation, as has Tory MP Marco Longhi.
Lancashire Police also referred themselves to the police watchdog over contact they had with Ms Bulley just weeks prior to her disappearance.
Lancashire Police are facing questions about their 23-day probe to find Nicola Bulley
The calls for an independent probe came as Ms Bulley’s friend, Emma White, wrote in an online post: ‘Our hearts are broken, we continue to support the family.’
Meanwhile, media watchdog Ofcom said it was ‘extremely concerned’ by comments from Ms Bulley’s grieving family read out by the police over approaches from broadcasters following the news that a body had been discovered.
However, some members of the media expressed their shock at the police for putting out the statement attacking journalists with seemingly little proof.
Meanwhile, Dai Davies, a retired chief superintendent, said any independent inquiry should also focus on Lancashire’s police and crime commissioner (PCC).
Andrew Snowden, the force’s PCC, faced criticism at the weekend after it emerged he had tweeted a selfie with Chief Constable Chris Rowley, just 87 minutes after Lancashire Police provided a bombshell – and heavily criticised – update last week detailing Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and the menopause.
Mr Davies, an ex-Head of Royal Protection, said: ‘There should be an independent review – not only into the actions of the police but into the actions of the police commissioner – to learn the lessons and to ensure all forces in the UK can learn lessons from this.’
Ofcom said yesterday that it had written to ITV and Sky following criticism from Ms Bulley’s family. A statement on Monday accused the broadcasters of making contact with them directly the previous night, despite a plea for privacy as they attempted to digest the news that a body had been recovered from the River Wyre.
Mr Davies, an ex-Head of Royal Protection, said: ‘There should be an independent review’. Pictured: Floral tributes and messages left at the village bridge and bench where Nicola Bulley who went missing
In the statement, read by Detective Chief Inspector Pauline Stables, the family also criticised the wider media, with accusations relatives and friends had been ‘misquoted and vilified’.
It continued: ‘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. 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.’
Ofcom said: ‘We are extremely concerned to hear the comments made by the family of Nicola Bulley about two broadcast licensees. We have written to ITV and Sky to ask them to explain their actions. We will then assess whether any further action is required.’
READ MORE: NICOLA BULLEY’S FAMILY VOW HER DAUGHTERS WILL ‘GET THE SUPPORT THEY NEED FROM THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE US THE MOST’
ITV said: ‘As a responsible broadcaster, we will cooperate fully and respond in detail to Ofcom’s request for information. We express sincere condolences to the family at this difficult time and we will not be commenting further.’
Sky has received Ofcom’s letter, it is understood, and will work closely with the watchdog to answer its questions.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she is not ‘wholly satisfied’ with the force’s explanations for revealing Ms Bulley’s personal struggles last week.
The Information Commissioner’s Office is assessing whether the force was right to reveal the personal information, while the Independent Office for Police Conduct are probing Lancashire Police’s contact with Ms Bulley in another incident before she went missing.
Ms Braverman and Mr Sunak are said to be awaiting the outcome of those two investigations before deciding on an independent inquiry.
Ms Braverman said: ‘I did have concerns earlier in the week about some of the elements relating to the release of personal information into the public domain.
‘I raised those concerns with the chief constable – I wasn’t wholly satisfied, I have to say, with some of the responses I got.
‘There are some investigations ongoing. We must wait for them to conclude.’
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