Nicola Bulley TikTok sleuth says its 'easy to fall down a conspiracy hole'

Bulley's disappearance prompted huge online speculation - with local residents in St Michael's on Wyre hiring a private security firm to tackle amateur sleuths

Police appear to be focusing their search for Nicola Bulley on the river, but a former police officer says they shouldn't rule out other possibilities.
Nicola Bulley's disappearance prompted huge online speculation. (SWNS)

A TikTok sleuth who garnered millions of views after falsely suggesting Nicola Bulley's disappearance was something to do with her friends and family has said its 'easy to fall down a conspiracy hole' on the social media site.

Bulley's disappearance in February prompted huge online speculation - with local residents in the sleepy St Michael's on Wyre village where she lived hiring a private security firm after they were besieged by amateur sleuths and TikTok conspiracy theorists.

Police investigating the 45-year-old's case were forced to issue a dispersal order to remove social media influencers from the area, also commenting in press conferences that the figures were hampering the investigation.

"It's very easy to fall down a conspiracy hole," said Heather, who racked up 3.6 million views on a post suggesting Bulley's best friend posed as Nicola on the morning of her disappearance.

"It's very easy to join in on that and think I'm just another person... that's the danger of TikTok; if somebody posts something that isn't factual and it gets a lot of views it becomes a conspiracy."

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith of Lancashire Police updates the media in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, as police continue their search for Nicola Bulley, 45, who vanished on January 27 while walking her springer spaniel Willow shortly after dropping her daughters, aged six and nine, at school. Picture date: Wednesday February 15, 2023.
Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith of Lancashire Police said online sleuths had hampered the investigation into Nicola Bulley's disappearance. (Alamy)

Bulley's body was discovered just over three weeks after she disappeared, with an inquest ruling her cause of death as accidental drowning.

One TikTok sleuth, who was arrested by police as he allegedly crossed a police cordon in order to attempt to film Bulley's body being recovered from the river, was among those who suggested a local caravan park could have something to do with the disappearance.

The owner's grandson spoke with the BBC as part of an investigation into TikTok, telling them the whole family were concerned for his grandmother's safety.

"To have my grandmother, as a 78-year-old woman who lives alone, to have people effectively come to her door filming her was frightening for all of us as a family," he said.

"She said she feared someone may try to come and attack her to kill her ... and all for clicks and likes to get money online."

Police officers walk along a road near to the scene where a body, that is suspected to be missing woman Nicola Bulley, was found close to St Michael's on Wyre, in Lancashire, Britain, February 19, 2023. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Police officers walk along a road near Nicola Bulley's body was found. Locals in the village of St Michael's on Wyre were besieged by amateur sleuths. (Reuters)

TikTok said it was taking action against users who had "violated community guidelines", pledging to disable accounts, remove content and limit the reach of posts. However, a former TikTok employee quoted in the documentary said the platform was not concerned about promoting anti-social behaviour.

In a statement following the inquest, Bulley's family slammed the excessive pursuing of the case by some members of the media and online amateur sleuths, stating: "It's upsetting that we've continued to receive negative targeted messages and still witness wildly inaccurate speculation being shared over numerous platforms.

"We encourage people to look at the facts, the evidence which has been heard during the inquest, and the conclusion reached by the coroner, to ignore any amateur views and opinions, and be mindful of the impact words bring."

Why do people get news from TikTok?

A report from the Reuters Institute showed that more people than ever are using TikTok - with many taking their information from the site rather than traditional sources.

The survey of 93,895 adults in 46 countries found that 55% got their news on the site from influencer-type personalities, compared to just 33% who got their news from journalists.

Meanwhile 44% on the site trusted ordinary people over traditional news, amid a decline in trust in the meda.

"It is clear that many websites and apps are optimised for those that are super-engaged with every twist and turn of today's news (and politics) agenda," Lead report author Nic Newman said.

"But these approaches also seem to be turning large sections of the public away - with potential long-term implications for civic and democratic engagement."

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