Nicola Bulley latest: everything we know so far as missing mum’s body found

Nicola Bulley vanished without a trace on 27 January, while walking her springer spaniel Willow, with the disappearance leaving investigators “baffled”.

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Police have found the body of missing Lancashire mum Nicola Bulley.

A body was tragically discovered after more than three weeks of searching, after the mysterious disappearance leaft investigators “baffled”. The 45-year-old vanished into thin air on 27 January, while walking her dog Willow along the River Wyre in St Michael’s, Lancashire.

Police initially discounted foul play and were treating the incident as a missing persons enquiry, believing that Nicola fell into the water. They now say they are treating her death as unexplained. Underwater search expert Peter Faulding, who was brought in by the family to scour to River Wyre, earlier said he thought there could be criminal involvement.

What is the latest in the search for Nicola Bulley?

Police found a body on Sunday, after a tip off from some dog walkers. On Monday afternoon, they confirmed it had been identified as Nicola Bulley.

Officers were called to reports of a body in the river close to Rawcliffe Road at around 11.35am on Sunday. A statement said: “An underwater search team and specialist officers have subsequently attended the scene, entered the water and have sadly recovered a body... 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.” Bulley’s family hit out at members of the public and the press in an explosive statement read out by police.

“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,” it said. “Our girls will get the support they need from the people who love them the most.”

“And it saddens us to think that one day we will have to explain to them that the press and members of the public accused their dad of wrongdoing, misquoted and vilified friends and family. This is absolutely appalling, they have to be held accountable this cannot happen to another family.”

When and where was Nicola Bulley last seen?

The mother-of-two vanished while out walking her dog along the River Wyre in St Michael’s, Lancashire on Friday, 27 January. She was last seen around 9.15am on the footpath by the river off Garstang Road.

Her phone was still connected to a work call and was found on a bench along the footpath, police have said. Searches of the water began.

Nicola BulleyNicola Bulley
Nicola Bulley

Is foul play suspected?

Police initally discounted foul play and were treating the incident as a missing person inquiry. They now say the death in unexplained.

What has been said about a ‘tatty red van’?

A couple of witnesses have reported seeing a ‘tatty red van’ in the area around the time Nicola disappeared on 27 January. The Independent reports a 55-year-old witness said they saw “tatty red van in Hall Lane outside a barn”. They added: “I didn’t think anything at the time, but when I saw Nicola had gone missing, I called 101 and spoke to an operator.”

The witness also claims to have contacted the police again and said that the van could have been a Renault vehicle and that it was the sort “you can live in”. A second witness told The Sun that they had reported seeing a red van which “looked suspicious” at around 9.40am on the same day.

However, our sister paper reports that Lancashire Police say they are continuing to investigate all possible leads, and this involves viewing CCTV, Dashcam footage and speaking to people who are providing information.

A spokesperson said: “We are aware of reports in the media about a red van being reported to us and we would like to stress that while this has been reported to us and we are making efforts to identify the owner at this time there is nothing to suggest this was anything other than one of many hundreds of vehicles in the area that morning. The inquiry team are working through hundreds of pieces of information and reports such as this in the media can distract them from genuine enquiries.”

Police issue dispersal order

Police have been given the power to break up groups causing a nuisance in the Lancashire village where Nicola Bulley vanished amid reports of people coming into St Michael’s on Wyre and filming properties for use on social media. The dispersal order was granted as the focus of the huge search for the missing mother of two shifted towards the sea.

Lancashire Police said the order was issued on Wednesday (8 February) night after reports that people had come to the village from outside the county to film. The order remained in place for 48 hours and gave officers the power to disperse anyone committing anti-social behaviour.

Vigil held for Nicola

Before her body was found, a silent vigil was held before a small altar at the medieval St Michael’s Church on the banks of the River Wyre, where Nicola and her family would attend services. Candles were lit around a photo of Nicola smiling.

Outside, lining the road through the village, friends of Bulley again gathered for another roadside appeal. They held up placards featuring her photograph, in a plea to “bring Nikki home” and appealing for information.

Heather Gibbons, a family friend who attended the church vigil, said: “It’s the hub in the community, it’s a place where we’ve frequently been with Nikki. She would often be here with her girls and with Paul. So yes, I’m sat in there thinking of the times where I’ve sat next to her, in the church, and really wishing I could go back … just, yeah, wishing she was here.

“That’s exactly what it is, it’s an agonising wait, it’s almost a hell above hell, because the unknown is unbearable. So, this morning at 10 o’clock we just opened the church for people to come and to light a candle, just to have a chance to come, a space to collect their thoughts, to be together.

“It’s not a vigil in that we’ve lost hope, it’s almost trying to create that moment of hope for everybody to keep supporting one another.

“We just needed a space to be able to think and pray and collect our thoughts for the family and for Nikki. There’s been a lovely little turnout of people who just wanted to come and have that moment.

“The family are on the worst rollercoaster of their lives, they are still holding on to hope, that there’s a chance we will get Nikki home safe. They have the same thinking that nothing is making sense. They are just desperate for some evidence that will pinpoint exactly what has happened.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.