Nicola Bulley: full independent review into police handling of missing mum’s case

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There will be a full independent review into police handling of the Nicola Bulley case, including concerns about staff sharing intimate details of her struggles with alcohol.

There will be a full independent review into Lancashire Police’s handling of the Nicola Bulley case after concerns were raised about staff sharing intimate details of her struggles with alcohol, the county’s police and crime commissioner says.

The 45-year-old mum’s body was pulled from the River Wyre in Lancashire on Sunday, more than three weeks after she was last seen on January 27. On Wednesday, an inquest opening heard that the mother-of-two was identified by her dental records.

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PCC Andrew Snowden called for the review, which will be carried out by the College of Policing. Snowden said the public “understandably feel that there remain questions about the handling of elements of the police investigation, how it was communicated and the decision to release personal information”.

“In my role as commissioner, as the public’s voice in policing in Lancashire, I also need to put in place the appropriate scrutiny to seek the right assurances and to ensure I am effectively holding the Constabulary to account,” he said.

“I have therefore taken the decision to commission a full independent review into the handling of this case, with clearly defined terms of reference, to ensure lessons can be learned, not just for Lancashire, but for all forces.”

Lancashire Police Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden has called for a full independent review into police handling of the Nicola Bulley case (Photos: Getty/Lancashire Police)Lancashire Police Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden has called for a full independent review into police handling of the Nicola Bulley case (Photos: Getty/Lancashire Police)
Lancashire Police Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden has called for a full independent review into police handling of the Nicola Bulley case (Photos: Getty/Lancashire Police) | Getty

This would includes how such cases could be best investigated and communicated under intense public spotlight and scrutiny going forward, Snowden said. The review would focus on the investigation and search, communication and public engagement, and the releasing of personal information.

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Snowden said the review needed to take place, due to “the amount of misinformation on social media, poorly-informed opinions given national airtime, the attacks on senior leaders’ personal appearance and family lives, along with the intrusion into the privacy of Nicola’s family.”

“I am sure there will be lessons to be learned for Lancashire Constabulary, the broader policing sector and others from this case, as there are from most major investigations, and I will keep the public informed of the findings in due course,” he said.

The Lancashire Police force said it “welcomes the independent review”, adding that it is “keen to take the opportunity to learn”.

The police watchdog had also launched an investigation into a welfare check conducted by a Lancashire Constabulary officer at Bulley’s family home days before she went missing. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it was notified that an officer visited the address to conduct the check on January 10. In a statement, the IOPC said the investigation was in its “very early stages”.

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

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

The Information Commissioner’s Office said it has made initial inquiries with the force to understand “the reasoning which led to the disclosure” of themissing mum’s personal information. “We will assess the information provided to consider whether any further action is necessary,” a spokeswoman said.

It is understood the independent review will supersede the internal review announced by the force last week.

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