Watchdog to probe welfare check at Nicola Bulley’s home days before she vanished

The police watchdog has launched an investigation after an officer conducted a welfare check at Nicola Bulley’s family home days before she went missing.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it was notified that an officer from Lancashire Police visited the address on January 10.

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.

Nicola Bulley missing
A police diving team at the River Wyre near St Michael’s on Wyre (Jason Roberts/PA)

On Wednesday, an inquest opening heard how the 45-year-old mother-of-two was identified by her dental records.

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.

“Our thoughts are with Ms Bulley’s family and friends and all of those affected by her death. Our investigation is in its very early stages.”

Lancashire Police have faced widespread criticism since Ms Bulley went missing – and at a press conference on Monday, they did not address the backlash.

MPs and campaign groups voiced their disapproval after the force elected to put elements of her private life into the public domain during the search – including her struggles with alcohol and perimenopause.

Nicola Bulley missing
Lancashire Police did not address the criticism they had received during their search for Ms Bulley at a press conference on Monday (Owen Humphreys/PA)

At Monday’s media briefing, police also did not disclose the reasons it had taken 23 days to find her body in the river.

At Ms Bulley’s inquest opener, Preston Coroner’s Court was told maxillofacial surgeon Andrew Ian Edwards had examined her dental records, which had been obtained by police from her dental surgery.

Senior coroner Dr James Adeley said: “He 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.

He added: “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities, and more, that positive identification has been made.”

Nicola Bulley death
Preston Coroner’s Court heard Ms Bulley was identified by her dental records (Dave Nelson/PA)

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

Dr Adeley said: “The family have been informed of the date, time and place of the opening of the inquest and have chosen not to attend for reasons I can quite understand.”

He said remaining evidence gathered by police and the post-mortem examination require “further evaluation”, and a full inquest is likely to be held in June, once availability of a Home Office pathologist had been checked.

“This will allow time to collate the facts of the case and allow the experts involved to finalise the findings from investigations that still need to be undertaken,” the coroner said.

Ms Bulley’s family said in a statement on Monday that they can let her “rest now” following the discovery of her body.