Friday, 1 Mar 2024

Nicola Bulley case laid bare – everything police shared at briefing

Nicola Bulley: Police provide update on search

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Lancashire Police issued an update this morning on the search for Nicola Bulley who has been missing since January 27. The press conference revealed new information about the mother-of-two’s disappearance as they thanked the public for their support during the investigation. Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith, the lead investigator in the Nicola Bulley case, said their “main working hypothesis” was still that she had “fallen into the river” during her morning walk with Willow. Here is what we found out today.

1. Nicola had ‘vulnerabilities’ that led to her being classed as ‘high risk’

During the conference it was revealed that Nicola Bulley had “vulnerabilities” before she went missing and her case was quickly listed as “high risk”.

Officers say they will not go into the details of Nicola’s vulnerabilities – but those vulnerabilities influenced their decision to list Nicola as high risk.

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith refused to give more details of the mother-of-two’s “individual vulnerabilities”.

Referring to Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell, she told the press conference: “It’s normal in any missing person investigation that you obviously gather as much information at an early stage about the person in question, which is no different and we did that with Paul. I’m not going to go into the details of those individual vulnerabilities. I’ve asked you to respect the family, who are going through unimaginable pain and distress at this moment.

“But those vulnerabilities based our decision-making in terms of grading Nicola as high risk and have continued to form part of my investigation throughout.”

2. Police are sticking with their hypothesis that Nicola has fallen into the river

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson said: “There is no evidence to indicate a criminal aspect or third party involvement in Nicola’s disappearance.”

Police say they are remaining open minded and have found “not a single piece of evidence” of third party involvement, but are continuing to investigate.

SIO Rebecca Smith added: “Whilst other people may speculate and spread rumours, there is no evidence whatsoever or evidence to suggest any third party involvement or Nicola leaving that field. However, this is an ongoing enquiry. We have a large dedicated team. We have a vast amount of information coming in on a daily basis.

“I hope with all my heart that we find Nicola Bulley alive. But there is not one single piece of evidence that Nicola has left those fields.”

3. Police have visited more than 300 premises

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson said they had visited more than 300 premises, spoken to 300 people, and received more than 1,500 pieces of information into the enquiry.

He added: “We have carried out an extensive land search surrounding the area including some properties near where Nicola went missing.

“There is no evidence that suggests any crime has been committed or that there is a third party in Nicola’s disappearance.”

Police have previously urged members of the public not to take the law into their own hands after footage emerged of people breaking into homes in the area.

4. Glove is ‘not’ Nicola’s and caravan site owners are cooperating

The “stained” glove discovered near the scene did not belong to Nicola and is not believed to be relevant to the investigation. The police do have it in their possession and have looked into the matter.

The press conference also confirmed that the abandoned house located near to where Nicola went missing has been “searched three times”.

SIO Rebecca Smith said the force has been “inundated” with “false information”.

She added: “It’s really obvious that we are being inundated with false information, accusations and rumours that is distracting us from our work. I do not believe the red van to be suspicious. There was also mention of fishermen who were seen as suspicious. I do not find it suspicious that fishermen were in the area. TikTokers have been playing their own private detectives, and have been in the area. There has been some mention that the CCTV at the caravan site hasn’t been working. That is not the case. We have been helped and assisted by the caravan site owners.”

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5. ‘TikTok detectives’ have ‘distracted significantly’ from police investigation

At a press conference at Lancashire Police HQ on Wednesday, the BBC asked if “social media video makers and wannabe detectives have been an annoyance or a hindrance in the enquiry”.

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith said: “Yes, it has significantly distracted the investigation. In 29 years’ police service I’ve never seen anything like it.

“Some of it’s been quite shocking and really hurtful to the family. Obviously, we can’t disregard anything and we’ve reviewed everything that’s come in but of course it has distracted us significantly.

“But as long as we are prioritising, which we do constantly on the information that’s coming in, that will not distract us from the priority actions that we’ve been completing.”

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