What is a high risk missing person? How police assess risk levels, what it means amid Nicola Bulley search
Lancashire Police made an announcement in which they said that missing mum-of-two Nicola Bulley was ‘vulnerable’ at the time she went missing
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The police force elaborated on the circumstances surrounding Ms Bulley’s disappearance, releasing a statement in which it described that she had “suffered with some significant issues with alcohol which were brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause”. Officers say that this information was released amid wide speculation over her disappearance.
Ms Bulley disappeared while walking her dog near the River Wyre on 27 January. The search has continued for her, with police working with the hypothesis that she fell into the river, however no trace of Ms Bulley has been found.
Missing persons investigations will often class someone a ‘high-risk’ to allow officers to tailor their search around this. In a statement, Lancashire Police said: “We have explained to Nicola’s family why we have released this further information and we would ask that their privacy is respected at this difficult time.”
But what is a ‘high-risk’ missing person - and how do police assess the situation? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a high-risk missing person?
A high-risk missing person is classed as someone who is at risk of seriously harming themselves or members of the public. The Home Office defines ‘serious harm’ as: “A risk which is life threatening and/or traumatic, and from which recovery, whether physical or psychological, can be expected to be difficult or impossible.”
How do police assess the risk level of a missing person?
Police will take in account a number of different factors before deciding on what risk level to place a missing person in. This includes age, with children at a higher level.
Officers will also take into account where the person in question went missing, any medication the missing person is on and the risks associated with taking too much or too little of this. Additionally, they will take into account any other known risks.
Depending on the criteria met, the missing person will then be placed into a category which will help search teams and detectives tailor their investigation. These categories include ‘no apparent risk’, ‘low risk’, ‘medium risk’ or ‘high risk’.
Why is Nicola Bulley a high-risk missing person?
In the statement from Lancashire Police, the force explained that officer were made aware of Ms Bulley’s previous alcohol issues by her family. They also said that officers and health professionals visited the family’s household prior to Ms Bulley going missing.
The statement read: “Sadly, it is clear from speaking to Paul and the family that Nicola had in the past suffered with some significant issues with alcohol which were brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause and that these struggles had resurfaced over recent months. This caused some real challenges for Paul and the family.
“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 10th. No one has been arrested in relation to this incident, but it is being investigated.”