UK - Nicola Bulley, St Michaels on Wyre (Lancashire), Jan 27, 2023 *MEDIA, MAPS, & TIMELINES - NO DISCUSSION*


21 FEB.

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has said it was "extremely concerned" to hear complaints made about ITV and Sky News by the family of Nicola Bulley.

Ofcom said it had written to both "to ask them to explain their actions".

It is understood Sky News has received Ofcom's letter and will closely with the watchdog to answer its questions.


 

22ND FEB.

Commissioner announces independent Nicola Bulley case review

He has commissioned the College of Policing to undertake a full independent review, alongside the independent scrutiny that will come from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the Coronial process.

The College of Policing is the independent national standards setting body for policing, including the standards for police search, investigations, media relations and information management. The College’s Police National Search Centre (PNSC) also provides national training guidance to all police forces on search techniques including looking for missing people.

Although the hypothesis of the police investigation on how Nicola went missing was sadly proven to be correct, and significant resources were dedicated to the search, the case has prompted unprecedented public and media interest and certain elements of the how the case, and information relating to the investigation were handled, have been a cause for public concern.

The review will have three clear areas of focus; investigation and search, communication and public engagement, and the releasing of personal information.

Commissioner Andrew Snowden is responsible for holding Lancashire Constabulary to account for delivering policing that is efficient and effective, along with ensuring the police are answerable to the communities they serve.

Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden said: “This is a tragic case which has attracted unprecedented media and public interest. First and foremost, my thoughts remain with Nicola’s family and friends – who have suffered an unimaginable loss, made harder through being in the public eye.

“I’d like to thank all the police officers and staff, volunteers and members of the public who contributed to the search. The police’s working theory that Nicola sadly entered the river was correct, and I know how hard and tirelessly so many people worked to find her. Ultimately, this has always been about finding a missing mother, partner, sister, daughter and friend.

“The public understandably feel that there remain questions about the handling of elements of the police investigation, how it was communicated, and the decision to release personal information, which need to be answered and explained.

“In my role as Commissioner, as the public’s voice in policing in Lancashire, I also need to put in place the appropriate scrutiny to seek the right assurances and to ensure I am effectively holding the Constabulary to account.”

“I have therefore taken the decision to commission a full independent review into the handling of this case, with clearly defined terms of reference, to ensure lessons can be learned, not just for Lancashire, but for all forces. This includes how such cases can be best investigated and communicated under such spotlight and scrutiny.

“Yesterday I spoke with the Chief Executive of the College of Policing to agree the independent review and met with the Chief Officer Team of Lancashire Constabulary to outline the scope and nature of the review.

“Given the amount of misinformation on social media, poorly informed opinions given national airtime, the attacks on senior leaders personal appearance and family lives, along with the intrusion into the privacy of Nicola’s family, it is important that a professional, thorough, and informed review is undertaken by a national independent body, with the right skills and resources, understanding of the current standards and access to the investigation information.

“I am sure there will be lessons to be learned for Lancashire Constabulary, the broader policing sector and others from this case, as there are from most major investigations and I will keep the public informed of the findings in due course.”


 

Lancashire Police

22ND FEB.

Please see a statement from HM Senior Coroner for Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, Dr James Adeley;

An inquest into the death of Nicola Bulley has been opened by HM Senior Coroner for Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen.

The coroner also ruled that her body could be released for a family funeral.

The Coroner's Investigation will consider how Ms Bulley came by her death.

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.

Whilst HM Senior Coroner considers this information, Lancashire Constabulary have been asked by HM Coroner not to discuss the case in either social media or the mainstream media.

The inquest has been listed to be heard at 10 AM on 26 June 2023 hours at County Hall, Fishergate, Preston.

 
11TH APRIL


Divers have been seen in the river where Nicola Bulley's body was discovered as they try to confirm the cause of her death, it has been reported.

The specialist cops were looking in an area less than a mile from where the mortgage adviser was seen in St Michael's on the Wyre, Lancashire.


 
12TH APRIL

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Lancashire Police confirmed the divers returned to the River Wyre as part of the investigation into Nicola Bulley’s death.

When the inquest was initially opened in February, the coroner said evidence gathered by the force and from the post mortem would require further examination, so the inquest was adjourned.

When asked about the police divers returning to the River Wyre, the coroner said he won't be making any further statements prior to the next hearing in June.

The coroner has also asked Lancashire Police not to discuss the case further with the media ahead of the inquest.


 

Police have issued a fresh statement over their return to the River Wyre two months on from the mum's discovery. The force has called out 'misinformed speculation' regarding the reasons they were in the river - clarifying they attended the scene on orders of HM Coroner.

A Lancashire Police spokesperson said: “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.”


 

Nicola Bulley: Update from Lancashire Police and HM Coroner

Friday, April 14, 2023

A Lancashire police spokesperson said: “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.”
HM Senior Coroner, Dr James Adeley, said: “Speculation as to the role and purpose of Officers acting on my instructions is unhelpful in the resolution of this inquest.”


 
9TH MAY


The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has announced it will not be taking any enforcement action against the force over its disclosure of her personal information.

Meanwhile, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has cleared the Lancashire force of any wrongdoing but said it had identified two "areas of learning" over an officer's contact with Ms Bulley prior to her disappearance.


 
10TH MAY


Whilst the force’s Assistant Chief Constable thanked both watchdog bodies the for their work yesterday (May 9), Lancashire Police’s second in command has now also spoken to the Post.

Commenting on the findings released already, Deputy Chief Constable Sacha Hatchett said: "We’re really grateful to the ICO for looking at the Nicola case and coming to their conclusions.

“It’s not so much a relief, we were confident that we understood what had happened, but we're grateful for the ICO for coming with their determination. I honestly do believe that there will always be lessons to learn in that type of critical incident. I think those lessons will probably be for the service as a whole. But, I cannot underestimate the effort and the dedication that was demonstrated by our staff who wanted to do the best for Nicola’s family.”


 
13TH MAY


An independent review into the handling of the missing from home investigation into Nicola Bulley is underway, with findings set to be published in Autumn 2023.

"Whilst the police investigation has concluded, and the inquest will take place in due course, it is only right that we should examine Lancashire Police's handling of this tragic case, which has been a cause for public concern, through an externally conducted independent review.”

The review’s findings will provide insight into the effectiveness of Lancashire Constabulary's response over the course of the period Nicola Bulley was missing. It will also examine whether the decision making of Lancashire Constabulary was reasonable and proportionate.


 

26 June 2023 - LIVE BLOG FROM INQUEST - DAY ONE - AM

09:20JAMIE LOPEZ

What is an inquest?​

Good morning and welcome to today's updates. For thos who are unfamiliar with inquests and why they are held, you can get more information here

09:22TOM EARNSHAW

Police liaison officers on site​

Police liaison officers from Lancashire Constabulary are outsite County Hall ahead of the inquest, which begins around 10am.

09:23JAMIE LOPEZ

Security​

While most inquests are quiet affairs with just a few people in attendance, today's will be somewhat different. The high profile nature of Nicola Bulley's disappearance and the search to find her means there is national and even international interest.

More than 30 members of the press are expected to be in attendance and extra security guards have been brought in to help out at County Hall

09:57FEDERICA BEDENDO

People are being escorted in the building​

All those attending the inquest are being escorted in and around the building. The vast majority of Lancashire Coroner’s officers and clerks are here

09:58FEDERICA BEDENDO

Timings of today's proceedings​

The inquest will run from 10am to 1pm, then there will be a lunch break, and then continue from 2pm until 4pm/5pm.

10:03JAMIE LOPEZ

Family representatives​

Nicola’s family; partner Paul Ansell, parents Ernie and Dorothy Bulley, and sister Louise Cunningham, will be represented at the inquest by solicitor Terry Wilcox, of Hudgell Solicitors, and Sophie Cartwright KC, of Deans Court Chambers.

Ahead of today's proceedings, a spokesperson for the firm said: "Nicola’s disappearance in January led to widespread media coverage and inaccurate social media speculation.

"Her family are hopeful, and confident, that the inquest process will establish the true facts, a clear timeline of what happened, and how Nicola died. Her family will not be making any comment until all evidence has been heard, and until the Coroner has delivered his conclusion."

10:07JAMIE LOPEZ

Hearing due to begin​

The hearing is due to begin momentarily. While the schedules are rarely set in stone, it is likely to run for a few hours before breaking for lunch at around 1pm.

Witnesses are currently being brought into the council chamber, the large room which is used for full Lancashire County Council meetings. The chamber is a large room with a mezzanine/balcony and the coroner, Dr James Adeley, will sit at the front with a coroner’s officer at his side.

Witnesses will take it in turn to sit in the witness box just in front of the coroner, with any family immediately in front of and to the left of the coroner. The balcony overlooking the council chamber is packed with reporters including those from the BBC, Sky, Channel 4, ITV and national newspapers.

10:20JAMIE LOPEZ

Witnesses​

Sat behind where any relatives will be sitting is a row of 10 people understood to be witnesses. Everyone is being brought into the chamber in small groups. Dr James Adeley is an experienced coroner used to dealing with high profile and contentious matters and it appears a lot of thought and preparation has gone into the planning of the inquest.

Terry Wilcox and Sophie Cartwright KC, part of the legal team representing Nicola’s family have arrived in court as have three senior police officers from Lancashire Constabulary. The coroner's officer has also entered the room to place documents in front of where the coroner will sit.

Among those due to give evidence are Paul Ansell and Louise Cunningham - Nicola Bulley’s partner and sister. It is understood they will be speak on Tuesday.

10:32JAMIE LOPEZ

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith​

Among those now in court is Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith who led the investigation into Nicola's disappearance

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10:36JAMIE LOPEZ

Members of the public turned away​

Proceedings are still yet to properly begin. Witnesses are still being brought in and we don’t appear to have any members of the public in situ yet. All press and members of the public were required to register their attendance in advance as places were limited.

Several members of the public were seen being turned away at the security cordon outside the entrance to County Hall as they had not registered in advance.

10:40JAMIE LOPEZ

Dr James Adeley​

Overseeing this inquest hearing is Dr James Adeley. He is the most senior coroner in Lancashire and recently appeared on the Channel 5 documantary Cause of Death. Dr Adeley is a former ENT consultant and a barrister.

Lancashire also has two Area Coroners as well as several Assistant Coroners who combine the role with other jobs, typically barristers.

10:50JAMIE LOPEZ

Nicola's family enter court​

Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell, her parents Ernest and Dot Bulley, and her sister Louise Cunningham have arrived in court and are sat on the front row. Paul Ansell is sat next to Nicola’s sister Louise Cunningham, wearing a light blue, long-sleeved shirt and has remained silent since coming into court

10:53JAMIE LOPEZ

Outside County Hall​

Police officers from Lancashire Constabulary have been patrolling around County Hall this morning

11:03KEY EVENT

Coroner in court​

Dr James Adeley has now arrived in court meaning that proceedings can begin. He starts by addressing Nicola's family directly and asking how they would like him to refer to her. They have asked that he uses 'Nikki' rather than Ms Bulley.

Dr Adeley said: “I am sorry that you are attending court under these circumstances. You have my deepest condolences and I would be grateful if you would pass that onto the children who are not in court for obvious reasons.”

He added: “I am aware that the social media and press interest has been extensive.”

11:08JAMIE LOPEZ

Today's witnesses​

Dr Adeley has been outlining how proceedings will run, including explaining who will be asked to speak. Witnesses giving evidence on the first day include a Home Office pathologist; a police diver; Professor Tipton and Dr Morgan who are experts in how people drown; an expert on body flotation after death; nine members of the public who were in the area of the River Wyre when Nikki went missing; and Supt Rebecca Smith

The second day of the inquest will hear from a doctor, Nikki’s GP, and members of her family.

11:12JAMIE LOPEZ

Warning to members of the public​

Dr Adeley has taken the unusual step of warning members of the public: “If anybody has the slightest inclination or is contemplating disrupting this inquest they should be aware this may amount to contempt of court.”
He said that if any such incidents occur, individuals will be allowed the opportunity to speak to a legal advocate before being brought before the coroner here at County Hall and charged with contempt of court. The coroner warned that the consequences could be a significant fine or prison.

Dr Adeley said “additional security provisions” have been put in place by police and the county council. He added: “This is to ensure the safety of everyone attending the inquest.”

Dr Armour concluded Nikki was alive when she entered the water and gave a cause of death of drowning.

11:36JAMIE LOPEZ

No signs of assault​

The coroner asks Dr Armour if there was any sign Nikki had been assaulted or harmed prior to her death. “No there was not,” Dr Armour replied
Dr Armour said: “I have concluded the cause of death was drowning because of the following factors: the watery fluid within the stomach, the lungs showed typical or classical features we have seen in cases of drowning.”

She added: “The presence of the watery fluid along with the lung changes, in my opinion confirms that Nicola Bulley was alive when she entered the water.”

11:49JAMIE LOPEZ

Police diver giving evidence​

The inquest is now hearing from PC Matthew Thackray from the North West Police Underwater Search & Marine Unit. PC Thackeray has been a police diver for eight years.

PC Thackray is describing the scene of the riverbank where Nikki was last seen and using a series of photographs to point out the location and the bench where Nikki’s phone was found. “These pictures were taken to try to show the slope down the banking towards the river itself,” he said.

The images show the two areas of sloping with the second much steeper than the first. PC Thackray said that although the river level was higher than normal there was around a 1 metre drop the day Nikki went missing. Pointing out a cut out at the bottom of the steep banking, he suggests this “could have been made by fishermen”.

Dr Adeley asks: “If you have fallen and gone over the edge of the steep section are you going to stop before you hit the water?” PC Thackery replied: “No. You would just go into the water.”

11:53JAMIE LOPEZ

"Very difficult to get out of the water here"​

PC Thackray describes how there is a manmade river wall, constructed of large square bricks, on the corner of the river. He said “presumes [this] has been done to prevent the river banking being worn away”.

The coroner asked: “If you were in the water and trying to climb out would it be possible to find a foothold on [the bricks]?” PC Thackray replied: “No not at all… it’s very difficult to get out of the water here. There is nothing to grab hold of to help yourself back out.”

The distance between where Nikki was last seen and where her body was found is around a mile and a half, the officer said. The inquest is now being shown a video clip filmed on PC Thackery’s bodycam which shows him swimming down the river from the bench to where Nikki’s body was found.

The video shows PC Thackery starting from the bench, making his way down the banking and climbing into the water. On the floor of the river we can see a pile of large rocks with sharp edges. The river is about 4 metres deep at this point.

PC Thackray filmed this footage on Tuesday April 4, 2023. This coincides with the statement issued by Lancashire Constabulary and the Coroner after speculation mounted when the divers were spotted having returned to St Michael’s on Wyre.

12:01JAMIE LOPEZ

Cold water shock​

PC Thackray tells the coroner that the temperature of the water when Nicola went missing was 4C. “If you’re not used to it then entering water at that temperature would lead to cold water shock" he said "It causes you to gasp and causes your muscles to seize up”.

The officer said: "It’s my belief that if she did fall in she was probably floating and being pushed along the flow."

PC Thackray explains that the riverbed does eventually slope up to allow you to stand but this is approximately 40 metres downstream from where Nicola is believed to have entered the water. It took PC Thackray three and a half minutes to get to this location although he said the speed of the flow was 1m/s or 2 knots on the day she disappeared.

PC Thackery said that it would be “two to three minutes” before the river would bring you to the first point where they can climb out. “That’s an awfully long time in very cold water,” the coroner commented.

12:14JAMIE LOPEZ

Water depth​

Around 100 metres from where Nikki is believed to have entered the water there is a small island, the inquest hears. At this point, PC Thackery was unable to reach the bottom as the river is about two metres deep at this location.

As the video footage of his own dive continues to play, PC Thackray points out some overhanging trees as he allows the flow of the river to take him downstream. He explains he has done this, rather than swim down, to illustrate how, even when it is moving slowly, the river flow will take someone downstream. His feet still can’t touch the bottom.

PC Thackray now comes to the weir. The water flows fast over the weir and below the weir the river is tidal. PC Thackray is pointing out several “snag hazards” such as fallen trees and vegetation which weren’t searched by the police when they arrived at the scene and started diving at 4pm on the day Nikki went missing. However, the fire service did search this area in a boat.

12:24JAMIE LOPEZ

Other drowning cases​

PC Thackray is asked about his experiences of deaths by drowning where the water depth is “sufficient to be able to stand up”. He said: “I have attended a number of deaths where the water is chest deep and with a flat bottom with no flow to the water. You could avoid drowning by keeping calm and standing up, however, it doesn’t happen like that when you suddenly enter cold water.

"You gasp and you breathe in water and these drownings could have been prevented if they had kept calm and kept your head above the water but it’s never that simple. In this case you can’t put your foot down, the river was moving and even if you got to the point of safety it’s difficult to climb out.”

Asked by Sophie Cartwright KC, the barrister representing Nicola’s family, PC Thackray said the advice for if someone falls into cold water is to float.
"If you try to swim you are impaired. Your muscles seize and you tire very quickly.

12:39JAMIE LOPEZ

Evidence from diving experts​

Next up to give evidence are Professor Mike Tipton from the University of Portsmouth and Dr Paddy Morgan, who is a is a consultant anaesthetist and medical director for HM Coastguard. They jointly produced a report looking at the mechanism by which a person dies from drowning.

Prof Tipton has published more than 750 papers on the physiological response to extreme environments such as cold water. They are giving evidence together.

Prof Tipton says he “leads the world in terms of expertise” on cold water shock and Dr Morgan handed over to him after commenting that "a particular complication on this day was the water temperature"

Prof Tipton said: “The lethal dose of water into the lungs, with freshwater, is two litres. In that first breath [for a person of similar weight to Nikki] you would have taken in 1-2 litres. So it would only take maybe one or two breaths to cross the lethal dose.”

Prof Tipton explained that when you enter cold water your heart output increases, your blood pressure increases and you have no control over your breathing. The professor was shown what Nicola was wearing on the day she went missing and said it offered "no real protection" from the water.

12:45JAMIE LOPEZ

Loss of consciousness​

Prof Tipton was asked how a person would respond psychologically to entering cold water. He replied: “You are absolutely preoccupied with the challenge you are being presented with. You need to breath hold but your ability is significantly impaired if not removed.

"Those first seconds in the water people really aren’t considering anything else. We have heard people talk about roots to grab onto and points of safety but you would not be thinking about that.

"You are preoccupied with attempting to hold your breath and get back to the surface. There is no normal, logical cognition going on. You are absolutely distracted and entering such water is a painfully cold experience.

Prof Tipton said at the temperature the River Wyre was on the day Nicola went missing someone would lose consciousness within around 25 seconds. “It is very rapid incapacitation,” he added.

13:06JAMIE LOPEZ

Nicola 'unconscious before first escape point'​

Prof Tipton explained that it is not solely the exchange of water and oxygen which leads to a person drowning. As well as taking up space in the lungs normally filled with oxygen the water “damages the lungs… the alveoli are collapsing”. Dr Morgan said that when the damage and/or amount of water inhaled gets to a certain point “the heart will stop pumping and the brain switches off”.

Dr Morgan said that if someone has taken an initial gasp, from the cold water shock, and then goes underwater the length of time you would be able to hold your breath is “10 seconds at best and most likely one to two seconds”. In Prof Tipton's opinion, Nicola would have been unconscious before her body reached the first escape point.

He said: “In my opinion, given the nature of the likely entry into the water, at speed down a steep slope, gone into the water I think Nikki had a gasp response under the water which initiated the drowning response very quickly.” She would have died in less than 10 seconds.

Prof Tipton said that if Nicola had fallen in where it is suggested then “there is a very good chance that the initial gasp would have happened under the water” which means unconsciousness would have been much quicker.

13:13JAMIE LOPEZ

Lunch break​

The hearing has now broken for a lunch break and will resume at 2pm
 

26 June 2023 - LIVE BLOG FROM INQUEST - DAY ONE - PM

Session resumes post lunch:


13:54JAMIE LOPEZ

TV crews​

TV crews can be seen filming news bulletins during the lunch break of today's proceedings. More than 30 members of the press were given permission to attend

14:07JAMIE LOPEZ

Proceedings resume​

All parties have now returned and proceedings are back under way. Next up to give evidence is former police dive supervisor Lorna Dennison-Wilkins . Sgt Dennison-Wilkins received a doctorate after completing a thesis relating to human body movements in inland waterways.

She is an expert on what happens to a body after someone dies by drowning.

14:17JAMIE LOPEZ

Impossible to swim against the current​

Sgt Dennison-Wilkins said that although the clothing Nicola was wearing would have given some initial buoyancy, this would have been removed by movement. The sergeant agrees that people can drown in relatively shallow water if the temperature is cold. She says that 44 per cent of fatalities in water occur when someone had no intention of entering the water - i.e. if they fell in accidentally.

Dr Adeley described Nikki as a “holiday swimmer” and asked what it would be like to try and swim against a water speed of 1m/s. “It would be almost impossible to swim against the current,” Sgt Dennison-Wilkins replied. “You would have to go with the current and then find a place of safety.”

14:22JAMIE LOPEZ

First member of the public giving evidence​

The next witness is Kaye King, a member of the public who was in the area of the River Wyre when Nicola went missing. She is a receptionist at a veterinary surgery and dropped her children off at St Michael’s on Wyre Primary School when she saw Nicola.

Ms King said Nicola seemed “her normal self” and said she didn’t appear anxious or low in mood. “She had the dog Willow with her and Willow was sat in the back of the car.”

Ms King said the two women said “morning” to each other and then started talking about dogs. “I presumed she was going for a walk because that’s what she normally does in the morning after the school run,” she said. Ms King said Nicola told her about going to buy dog food the week before and said “ooh, I can’t believe she’s classed as a senior” after telling Ms King that Willow was aged seven.

14:30JAMIE LOPEZ

"Man in black" siting reported to police​

The next evidence comes from dog walker Richard Fife. Mr Fife has been unable to attend today but his statement is being read out on his behalf. It explains he was walking his dog on the fields close to where Nicola was last seen. He knew her to say hello to her as they often see each other while out walking.

Between 9.10am and 9.20am he saw Nicola from a distance. She was looking at her phone. Mr Fife saw a male he referred to as “man in black” as he walked towards where he saw Nicola and assumed “he was waiting for a lift”. Mr Fife said he then saw him again on his way back and that he was dressed “all in black and possibly a beanie hat” and was about 6’ 1” tall.

Mr Fife thought it was strange he was still there, according to his statement. Mr Fife then got in his car and drove off. When he drove past where the man in black had been he was gone. After hearing Nicola had gone missing Mr Fife reported his sighting of the man in black to police.

14:43JAMIE LOPEZ

"Absolutely idyllic"​

Next to speak is sales executive Claire Cheshire who was also among the last to see Nicola alive. Ms Cheshire saw Nicola at around 8.40am as both mums dropped off their children at school. “As Nikki would always do she bent down and stroked my dog, smiling, at the same time as walking along in the direction of Garstang Road which was very normal behaviour.”

Ms Cheshire would often see Nicola out as the two regularly took their dogs on similar walk routes. She later saw Nicola and her dog Willow again, approaching the gap between the two fields. She could see Nicola in the corner of the lower field.

Asked what Nicola and Willow were doing, Ms Cheshire replied: “It looked absolutely idyllic. From having a younger dog pulling on a long lead I looked up and my thoughts were ‘that’s where I want to be with my dog’. She was walking along and Willow was running up and down the banking just having a lovely run and play round the field.”

Ms Cheshire said that other than Penny, who owns the caravan park next to the river, she didn’t see anyone else other than one dog walker much further down. Ms Cheshire left the field at around 9.15am and was captured on nearby CCTV at 9.18am.

14:56JAMIE LOPEZ

Play date plans​

The inquest is now hearing evidence from Lucie Musella, a waitress who had been texting Nicola to arrange a play date between their two daughters. Nicola had text Lucie the night before she went missing but Lucie only saw the text on the Friday morning.

Lucie replied at 8.13am: “I said my daughter would love to come and play” At 8.59am Nikki replied confirming a time and put a smiley face emoji. Lucie and Nicola were also due to meet up the following day. “We were going to be meeting up, a group of mums, on the Saturday night for a few drinks.”

15:03JAMIE LOPEZ

Campsite owner​

The inquest is now hearing from Penny Fletcher, the owner of a campsite in St Michael’s On Wyre which is close to where Nicola was last seen. Mrs Fletcher took her dog for a walk at 9.30am and found Willow with Nicola nowhere to be seen.

Mrs Fletcher, who is giving evidence via video link, said: “As I came round the bend I came to the stile, I tied up my dog and climbed over the stile. I saw this Springer Spaniel. It was near the bench and then it was going towards the river where it drops down really steep.

"It wasn’t doing anything chaotically it was a bit giddy. I saw a mobile phone on the bench and between the bench and the river I saw a bundle in the grass. I walked down and it was one of those dog harnesses.”

Mrs Fletcher said Willow’s dog tag had a reference to Moy Vets, in Thornton-Cleveleys, but that when she called them about finding the dog they “didn’t want to know”. When she got back to St Michael’s On Wyre after attending a medical appointment in Garstang, Mrs Fletcher called her daughter-in-law Anne-Marie and asked about the dog. “She said ‘oh no, it’s Nikki’s dog and Nikki has gone missing’.”

15:18JAMIE LOPEZ

Finding of Nicola's phone​

Susan Jones, the wife of the dog walker who Penny Fletcher had called to ask for help after finding Willow, is next to give evidence. Her husband Roger was out walking the couple’s dog, Jet, who Susan said has since passed away.

Sue said she called her husband at 10.12am. She said: “Roger said there’s a phone on the bench but I don’t know how to work it.” Sue then quickly walked to the riverbank where Roger was. She picked up Nicola's mobile phone and it showed the image used as the lock screen was one of Nicola, Paul and their children. Roger recognised Paul but didn’t know where he lived.

15:28JAMIE LOPEZ

"She is struggling"​

Sue then came across Anne-Marie Fletcher, Penny’s daughter-in-law, who recognised Nicola from the picture and called the school. Anne-Marie managed to get hold of Paul on the phone. Sue said: “Anne-Marie was on the phone to Paul and when she came off the phone she said Paul had said ‘she is struggling’.” Paul arrived at the scene around 10 minutes later.

Sue said she then put the harness on Willow. “She was ok with [the harness] and I started to walk the dog towards the metal gate and the dog wouldn’t move,” Sue said. “When the dog turned round there was a retractable lead hanging down and when I moved that she was fine.”

16:00JAMIE LOPEZ

'Screaming' heard​

Two women have spoken of hearing a scream near the riverside on the morning Nicola vanished. Nurse Helen O’Neill said she was with her dogs in the garden of her house on Allotment Lane, not far from a path that leads to the bench overlooking the River Wyre where Nicola disappeared.

She told the inquest: “I heard a scream, it’s not an alarming noise, it was just over in a couple of seconds. I’m quite used to hearing the children in the school out back, but it was not that noise.

“I vividly remember thinking it’s unusual at this time. In my head, I had two females, walking along by the river and one jumped out on the other. I didn’t think anything of it until later on. There were no other sounds for me to be concerned about.”

A second witness, Veronica Claesen, a housewife and club secretary for the village tennis club, said: “I was just about to get into the car and I heard a scream. A very short scream and my immediate thought was, ‘Somebody is having a bit of fun at the back of the graveyard’.”
Ms Claesen said it was an “inhale scream” like a sharp intake of breath.

16:36JAMIE LOPEZ

Fitbit and car keys found with body​

Nicola's Fitbit watch and car keys were recovered along with her body, a senior police officer who investigated her disappearance said.

Asked what was found with her body on February 19, Lancashire Police Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith told the inquest: “Her Fitbit watch and her set of Mercedes car keys.”

16:55JAMIE LOPEZ

Fitbit stopped counting at 9.30am​

Nicola’s Fitbit watch stopped recording steps beyond 9.30am on the day she disappeared, a digital specialist for Lancashire Police said. DC Keith Greenhalgh told an inquest into her death: “Nicola Bulley’s iPhone was recovered from a bench. The phone was intact and there was no sign that it had been in the water.”

Speaking about her Fitbit watch, he went on: “My initial thoughts were that the device lost power on February 4 2023.” He said there were no further steps recorded beyond 9.30am on January 27.

17:10JAMIE LOPEZ

Timings​

DC Keith Greenhalgh said he believes Nicola fell into the water between 9.18am and 9.30am. He told the inquest analysis of her iPhone and Fitbit watch data suggests she “very possibly” entered the water at 9.22am on January 27.

17:16JAMIE LOPEZ

Day one finished​

Proceedings have now finished for today and will resume at 10 on Tuesday.

You can get more details in our recaps below:
 

The inquest into the death of Nicola Bulley will resume at County Hall in Preston today (June 27).

LancsLive is among the reporters attending the hearing which is taking place within the council chambers and will bring live updates throughout proceedings.

Today's hearing will hear evidence from a mental health expert, Nicola's GP, her sister Louise Cunningham and then her partner Paul Ansell. The coroner will deliver his conclusion after hearing from all of those and then deliberating on all evidence heard so far.
 

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