Police searching for mother-of-two Nicola Bulley in the United Kingdom have found a body “less than a mile” from where she vanished 23 days ago.
Ms Bulley, 45, was last seen in St Michael’s in the English county Lancashire at about 9.15am, local time, on January 27.
The mystery surrounding her disappearance sparked a massive search by authorities and drew international attention. While Ms Bulley’s mobile phone was found – still connected to a work conference call – along with her pet dog Willow, there was no trace of her.
On Sunday afternoon, UK time, police searching for her confirmed a body had been found near the place where she was last seen, The Sun reports.
They said no formal identification had been completed, so it remains unclear whether the human remains found belong to Ms Bulley.
Now, an underwater diving expert is hitting back at accusations he gave Ms Bulley’s family “false hope” by insisting there was nothing in the water after searching for 23 days.
Peter Faulding, whose team helped police scour the River Wyre for the missing mum, previously told the media she was definitely not in the water.
“If she slipped down the bank she wouldn’t go far,” he said last week, according to The Independent. “The rocks would hold her in place and she’d only have been waist deep. She could have stood there and asked for help because people do walk by.”
After Sunday’s discovery of the body, Mr Faulding insisted it was “totally unfair” to suggest that he had given the family “false hope”.
“If I gave them false hope, then what about the police search teams there every day? I was there for three days as a volunteer,” he said, according to The Sun.
“I think that would be totally unfair to be honest with you, and I would sling the hook and give up searching.
“The police search teams walked that river every day. Up and down, up and down.
“When we searched that part, she was not laying on the bottom of the river, but we were only there for one day.
“We are going down on with a boat towing the sonar. We’re not searching reeds.”
Body found in water
The body, which has not been identified yet, was found in the river on Sunday, local time, close to where Ms Bulley went missing.
“We were called today at 11.36am to reports of a body in the River Wyre, close to Rawcliffe Road,” police said in a statement on Sunday.
“An underwater search team and specialist officers have subsequently attended the scene, entered the water and have sadly recovered a body.
“No formal identification has yet been carried out, so we are unable to say whether this is Nicola Bulley at this time.
“Procedures to identify the body are ongoing. We are currently treating the death as unexplained.
“Nicola’s family have been informed of developments and our thoughts are with them at this most difficult of times. We ask that their privacy is respected.”
The discovery came shortly after police closed off the area in question. Divers were seen entering the water after two police cars raced to the scene.
A police helicopter circled above as a man and woman were seen pointing to the spot where the new search was launched.
Earlier, police sparked controversy by disclosing details of Ms Bulley’s personal life, saying she had been treated as a “high risk” missing person because she had “vulnerabilities”, including a struggle with alcohol.
“This caused some real challenges for (her partner) Paul and the family,” police said at the time.
“As a result of those issues, a response car staffed by both police and health professionals attended a report of concern for welfare at Nicola’s home address on January 10.
“No one has been arrested in relation to this incident, but it is being investigated.”
Officers have defended their decision to release the personal information after being slammed by MPs and former cops.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has ordered the force to explain why the details were revealed and police have now referred themselves to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
They released a statement from Nicola’s family begging for the public to “focus on finding her”.
“The police know the truth about Nikki and now the public need to focus on finding her,” the family’s statement read.
“Due to the perimenopause, Nikki suffered with significant side effects such as brain fog, restless sleep and was taking HRT to help, but this was giving her intense headaches, which caused Nikki to stop taking the HRT.
“Nikki, we hope you are reading this and know that we love you so much and your girls want a cuddle.
“We all need you home.”
Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith reiterated last week that the police’s “main working hypothesis” was that she fell in the river.
But she revealed two other theories regarding her disappearance – Nicola leaving the area voluntarily and third party involvement.
Officers had moved their search for the mum several kilometres away to the coast after believing Nicola could have been carried out to sea.
Last Friday, Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell told Channel 5 “something happened that day” as people do just “vanish into thin air”.
He also spoke of his torment at her disappearance two weeks after she was last seen.
On Vanished: What happened to Nicola Bulley?, Paul said: “It just doesn’t feel real. I feel like I’m in the Truman show.
“Like, I honestly believe I’m going to wake up at any moment … how are we even in this? We are good people.”
Paul also said he felt “anger, loads of frustration, confusion, disbelief, surrealism” as the family went through “unprecedented hell”.
This article first appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission.
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