Nicola Bulley: Independent review commissioned into Lancashire Police's handling of mother's disappearance

A full independent review has been commissioned into Lancashire Police's handling of Nicola Bulley's disappearance.

Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner has asked the College of Policing to investigate.

The review overrides the previously announced internal investigation by Lancashire Constabulary.

Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden said: "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 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."

The College of Policing is an independent body that sets national standards for policing.

The review will focus on three areas; the investigation and search, communication and public engagement, and the release of personal information.

It comes after the police watchdog has launched an investigation into a welfare check made at Nicola Bulley's home days before she went missing.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it was informed that an officer from Lancashire Police visited Ms Bulley's address on 10 January.

Ms Bulley's body was pulled from the River Wyre in Lancashire on Sunday, more than three weeks after she was last seen on January 27.

Confirming it had launched an investigation, a spokesman for the IOPC said: "Following a referral by Lancashire Constabulary on Thursday, we have started an independent investigation regarding contact the force had with Nicola Bulley on January 10 2023.

"We were notified by the force that an officer attended the family home on that date as part of a welfare check."

An inquest opening heard how the 45-year-old mother-of-two was identified by her dental records.

Preston Coroner's Court was told maxillofacial surgeon Andrew Ian Edwards had examined the 45-year-old's dental records, which had been obtained by police from her dental surgery.

Speaking at the opening of the inquest into Ms Bulley's death, senior coroner Dr James Adeley said: "He [the surgeon] examined the body that was located in the River Wyre near Rawcliffe Road in St Michael's on Wyre at 2.15pm on February 20."

Dr Adeley said the surgeon found restorative work carried out was identical and added that he is "satisfied on the balance of probabilities, and more, that positive identification has been made."

The hearing, which lasted around five minutes, was not attended by Ms Bulley's partner Paul Ansell or any other family.

Dr Adeley said the family were informed of the date of the opening of the inquest and chose not to attend, for "reasons I can understand".

He added that remaining evidence gathered by police and the post-mortem examination required "further evaluation" and a full inquest was likely to be held in June.

Ms Bulley's body was pulled from the river on Sunday, following an intensive three-week search operation.

Ms Bulley was last seen while walking on a footpath by the river with her dog Willow on 27 January.

The springer spaniel was found shortly after, along with Ms Bulley's mobile phone, which was discovered on a bench beside a steep riverbank. The phone was still connected to a work conference call.

On Monday, Lancashire Police confirmed that the body pulled from the river was Ms Bulley's, but did not disclose why it took 23 days to find her body in the river.

In a statement released on Monday, Ms Bulley's family said she was "the centre of our world" and "the one who made our lives so special".

During the search, police faced criticism for releasing personal details about Ms Bulley, while Ms Bulley's family questioned the role of the media during the investigation.

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Lancashire Police previously released details surrounding Ms Bulley's struggles with alcohol and the menopause, which drew widespread criticism, including from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

On Tuesday, the media watchdog Ofcom said it had written to Sky News and ITV "to ask them to explain their actions" following comments made by Ms Bulley's family.