Final texts sent by Nicola Bulley before her disappearance are "massively important" to the investigation in light of the police's revelations about her high-risk status, a former top police officer has said.
The 45-year-old mortgage broker was last seen walking her dog, Willow, in St.Michael’s on Wyre on 27 January at around 9.10am. Police later revealed they had classified Bulley's case as high-risk over "vulnerabilities" including issues with alcohol and menopause.
On Thursday, greater attention was placed on texts sent by Bulley in which she made a playdate with friends, with a former police and crime commissioner for Dorset, Martyn Underhill, saying he does not think they indicate a woman in crisis.
"It’s massively important to the inquiry," he explained. "The reason it has come up again is in response to the police saying she suffered from alcohol problems and the menopause because what they’re clearly saying in their disclosure is that she may not have been of sound mind. Well, someone who isn’t of sound mind wouldn’t have arranged to meet a friend for a drink or a playdate with kids"
Locals at a town hall meeting were given details about Bulley's last-known contact shortly before a search, with one friend telling The Mirror about the details that had been shared.
"She booked a playdate, 8.57am, she sent a text message to a friend whose mortgage she had just recently signed off on to arrange for the girls to go for tea this week," the friend, who did not want to be named, said.
“You wouldn’t have done that if you were going to get up and go missing.”
Bulley's last text was sent at 8.57am, three minutes before she joined a Microsoft Teams call with work colleagues. Her microphone and camera were switched off during the call, which she was still logged into when her phone was discovered.
Family and friends said Bulley had parked in the same spot and walked the same route thousands of times, and data from her Strava app suggest the walk usually took her around 30 minutes.
Police have searched the River Wyre, working on the theory that she went into the river during her walk, but have not found any strong leads in the water.
At a police press conference on Wednesday, authorities revealed that Bulley’s case had been classed as high-risk since the investigation was opened.
Later, police confirmed that Bulley had experienced issues with alcohol and menopause, prompting a furious backlash over the announcement, and sparking the involvement of Home Secretary Suella Braverman and the police watchdog.
According to a source, the home secretary "asked the force for an explanation" for sharing intimate details about Bulley's life, but was not entirely satisfied with the police response.
Bulley's family said the police opted to disclose her issues to prevent people from attempting to sell stories on the missing mortgage broker, and urged the public to focus on finding her.
Her father, Ernie Bulley, has also made a direct appeal to his daughter to come back home.
“There are two young children there waiting for their mummy to come back and we want her back obviously also, but if Nicola is out there, if she’s watching this, then all we’d like to say is: ‘Come home, contact the police, contact ourselves and we just want you back’,” he said.
Nicola Bulley investigation: Read the latest developments
Nicola Bulley: Key developments and latest updates in hunt for missing mother (Yahoo News UK, 5-min read)
Police release of Nicola Bulley’s personal details ‘as sexist as it comes’ (The Guardian, 3-min read)
Home Secretary demands ‘explanation’ over Nicola Bulley private life disclosure (Lancashire Telegraph, 3-min read)