People posing as members of the media climbed over a fence to take photos of a body found close to where Nicola Bulley went missing, it has been claimed.
A former chief superintendent with Lancashire Police said some members of the public had pretended to be journalists in an attempt to take pictures of the body.
It was found on Sunday morning about a mile from where the mother-of-two was last seen along the River Wyre in Lancashire. The body has now been formally identified and police on Monday confirmed that it was her.
Bulley, from Inskip, Lancashire, was last seen walking her dog in St Michael’s on Wyre after dropping her daughters, aged six and nine, at school on 27 January.
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On Monday, Bob Eastwood, a former chief superintendent at Lancashire Police, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Only yesterday there were people purporting to be the media that quite clearly weren’t and they were climbing over the fence to take pictures of the body that the police were recovering.
"This is something else."
Bulley's disappearance has drawn so-called "TikTok detectives" to the area, with her friends and family and police speaking out about their intrusion.
Earlier this month, a friend of Bulley said many visitors were using the scene of her disappearance as a "tourist spot" to take selfies for posting on social media.
One internet sleuth was arrested and fined for posting videos from the search area.
Eastwood said: "I think it's a watershed moment in how policing going forward deals not only with the onslaught of communications and the interest of media organisations, but it’s the ones that do not represent media organisations, that purport to be, and the other of course is the use of so-called specialists who I think in this case imposed themselves on the investigation and Nicola’s family, and I’m hoping their consciences are currently in overdrive."
He added that the way the specialists behaved in the investigation "actually fed into a lot of people's obsession".
Lancashire Police has been criticised for its handling of the case and been accused of bowing to those posting unsubstantiated theories online after it revealed details last week of Bulley's issue with alcohol after struggling with the menopause.
Asked about the personal information Lancashire Police released, Eastwood said: "When I first heard the police had released that, I cringed, but I didn’t say anything, I didn’t put anything out on my own social media because I didn’t know the full facts and didn’t know why they had taken those steps.
"Some hours later the family gave a press release indicating they were aware the information was to be given out and they’d given the information out because somebody had sold a story to the press and that information was going to be given out as an exclusive.
"Knowing policing as I do, I suspect that they made that decision in order to prevent somebody releasing it in that way. It was unpleasant information to hear but I think in all the circumstances, from what I know and believe, I think the police were right to do so."
It is understood that a man and a woman walking their dog on Sunday morning discovered the body and called police.
In a message to Sky News on Sunday, Bulley's partner Paul Ansell said: "No words right now, just agony. We're all together, we have to be strong."
Lancashire Police said officers were called to the River Wyre close to Rawcliffe Road at about 11.35am on Sunday.
"An underwater search team and specialist officers have subsequently attended the scene, entered the water and sadly recovered a body," a statement said.
Underwater search expert Peter Faulding, who was called in by Bulley's family to help find her, found no trace of her in the section of river searched by his team and police divers over three days.
On Sunday, Faulding said he had only cleared the area around the bench where her mobile phone was found, and that the tidal section beyond the weir was "an open book", according to MailOnline.
"All I can say is when we searched she was not on the bottom of that river," he said.
"We weren't searching the reeds, our job was to search the water."
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