‘Misquoted and vilified’: Nicola Bulley’s family attack media as body identified

The family of Nicola Bulley have said they would never comprehend “what Nikki had gone through in her last moments”, but excoriated the media and members of the public for vilifying her family and friends, after a body found in a river was identified as hers.

Her body was discovered on Sunday morning in the River Wyre in Lancashire, more than three weeks on from when she disappeared while walking her dog on 27 January.

In a statement read by police after they had confirmed the body belonged to the 45-year-old mortgage adviser, her family criticised the media and the sections of the public who had accused her partner of wrongdoing and “misquoted and vilified friends and family”.

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

The case has received vast attention from the press and across social media, attracting armchair detectives and conspiracy theorists.

Shortly after Bulley’s disappearance, police were forced to put in place a dispersal order after TikTok and YouTube influencers arrived on the scene, intimidating local people and causing a nuisance to police.

Hundreds of people have since traipsed through the beauty spot, taking photographs for social media, and other visitors broke into buildings and went through local people’s gardens at night in the hope of finding her.

Nicola Bulley.
Nicola Bulley. Photograph: Family Handout/PA

Bulley’s partner, Paul Ansell, and close friends have been interviewed numerous times on television in the weeks since she was reported missing, including participating in an hour-long Channel 5 documentary earlier in the month, in which they spoke emotionally about Bulley, who had two daughters aged six and nine, and made an appeal for the public to help find her.

A statement was read out on behalf of Bulley’s family, which was predominantly an excoriating assessment of the media response to her disappearance.

“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,” the statement said.

“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.”

The family singled out ITV and Sky News, who were the first to interview Ansell, for making contact with them directly on Sunday night after police confirmed a body had been found, adding they had asked for privacy.

The statement continued: “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.”

The statement concluded: “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’ll take it from here.”

Lancashire constabulary said they had identified her after a body was found by two members of the public in undergrowth near the village of St Michael’s on Wyre on Sunday.

Bulley, who went missing 24 days ago, was discovered less than a mile from where she was last seen walking her dog after dropping off her two young daughters at school.

Lancashire constabulary said the case was now in the hands of the coroner.

Police have faced intense criticism for their communication during the case, having been labelled “sexist” by MPs and campaigners for revealing Bulley suffered from alcoholism as a result of struggles with the menopause.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the assistant chief constable, Peter Lawson, said: “Sadly, we are now able to confirm that yesterday we recovered Nicola Bulley from the River Wyre.

“Nicola’s family have been informed and are of course devastated. Our thoughts are with them at this time as well as with all her loved ones and the wider community.

“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.”

Wyre council said it was “devastated” to hear of Bulley’s death and it would be lowering the union flag at the civic centre to half mast as a mark of respect.

Michael Vincent, the leader of Wyre council, said: “We are deeply saddened by the news today and our sincerest sympathies go out to Nicola Bulley’s family, friends, the communities of Inskip and St Michael’s and everyone who knew and loved her.

“We would ask that Nicola’s family are allowed to grieve in private and that the public remain respectful at this extremely difficult time.