Nicola Bulley’s family speak of devastation as her body formally identified

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The family of Nicola Bulley have said they will “never be able to comprehend what Nikki had gone through in her last moments” as police confirmed her body was pulled from a river.

The mother-of-two was discovered on Sunday morning in the River Wyre in Lancashire, more than three weeks on from when she disappeared.

Lancashire Police called a press conference on Monday, where the force did not address the widespread criticism it had received for releasing some aspects of Ms Bulley’s private life into the public domain.

Police also did not disclose the reasons it had taken 23 days to find her body in the river.

Speaking at the force’s HQ, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson did confirm the body had been identified as Ms Bulley – and described the investigation as “hugely complex and highly emotional”.

Nicola Bulley missing
Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson (right) of Lancashire Police with Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables (left) speaking at a press conference outside the force’s HQ (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Ms Bulley’s family also paid tribute to the 45-year-old in a statement read by the force’s head of crime Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables, where they said: “We love you, always have and always will.”

The statement read: “Our family liaison officers have had to confirm our worst fears today.

“We will never be able to comprehend what Nikki had gone through in her last moments and that will never leave us.

“We will never forget Nikki, how could we, she was the centre of our world, she was the one who made our lives so special and nothing will cast a shadow over that.

Paying further tribute to Ms Bulley at the end of their statement, the family added: “To those who genuinely helped and supported us, privately, we thank you.

“The community support in St Michael’s, friends, neighbours and strangers has been nothing short of comforting and heart-warming. Friends you know who you are. Thank you.

“Our hearts truly break for others who have missing loved ones. Keep that hope alive.

“Finally, Nikki, you are no longer a missing person, you have been found, we can let you rest now.

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

The family also questioned the role of the press during the investigation and accused the media of “misquoting and vilifying” Ms Bulley’s partner, relatives and friends.

“It saddens us to think that one day we will have to explain to them (Ms Bulley’s children) that the press and members of the public accused their dad of wrongdoing, misquoted and vilified friends and family,” the statement said.

“This is absolutely appalling, they have to be held accountable. This cannot happen to another family.

“Do the press and other media channels and so-called professionals not know when to stop? These are our lives and our children’s lives.”

Ms Bulley’s body was found on a stretch of the river just past a slight bend, a mile or so outside the village, close to where a tree had fallen on its side half in and half outside the water, with branches and undergrowth partially submerged.

It is understood that a man and a woman discovered the body and called police – who said they were called to the River Wyre close to Rawcliffe Road at around 11.35am on Sunday.

Police had erected a tent and cordoned off the lane while police divers were called in, but the road was reopened around three hours later once the body was recovered.

Nicola Bulley missing
Mounted police officers along the main road in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“We would like to thank all of those who have helped during what has been a hugely complex and highly emotional investigation.

“Today’s development is not the outcome any of us would have wanted, but we hope that it can at least start to provide some answers for Nicola’s loved ones, who remain foremost in our thoughts.

“The case is now being handled by HM Coroner.”

The force came under fire after making Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and perimenopause public three weeks after she vanished.

In a press conference on Wednesday, they revealed she was classed as a “high-risk” missing person immediately after Mr Ansell reported her disappearance, “based on a number of specific vulnerabilities”.

They later added in a statement that Ms Bulley, from Inskip in Lancashire, had stopped taking her HRT medication.

A public backlash and interventions from the Government and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper followed, with Lancashire Constabulary confirming a date had been set for an internal review into the investigation.

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