Ex-detective highlights police blunders in hunt for Nicola Bulley

‘You simply can’t be sure someone else is not involved’: Ex-senior detective highlights string of police blunders in hunt for missing Nicola Bulley and says trust in force is now ‘very low’

  • Simon Harding spent 30 years in the Met and worked on high-profile cases
  • He says that errors in police probe stretch back to the day mother went missing

A former senior detective has highlighted a string of police errors in the desperate search for Nicola Bulley – and says public trust in the investigation is ‘very low’.

Simon Harding, a former detective chief inspector during a 30-year career in the Metropolitan Police, has worked on a number of high-profile cases including the murders of Sarah Everard and sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry.

He says that errors in the investigation into Ms Bulley’s disappearance stretch back to the day she went missing.

The mother-of-two, 45, vanished while walking her dog along the River Wyre in Lancashire at around 9.15am on January 27. 

But Mr Harding has queried why a police cordon was not established immediately following her ‘out of character’ disappearance.

Simon Harding is a former detective chief inspector and spent 30 years in the Metropolitan Police

The mother-of-two, 45, vanished while walking her dog along the River Wyre in Lancashire at around 9.15am on January 27

He has also asked why police continue to insist on the theory that Ms Bulley fell into the river and why detectives are not sharing more information about their probe.

Writing in The Sunday Times, he said: ‘You would expect the area where Nicola was last seen to be cordoned off too, to stop people descending on it as a tasteless tourist spot and – losing any potential evidence. 

READ MORE: ‘I was at home drinking tea when Nikki vanished’: Nicola Bulley’s devastated partner reveals minute-by-minute his movements in hours when missing mother-of-two disappeared 


‘But there does not appear to be any cordon because Nicola’s disappearance is said to be non-suspicious.

‘The cordoned-off crime scene where Nicole and Bibaa were murdered covered 1 million square metres and I maintained that cordon for three weeks, making sure everything had been done.

‘When you have a high-profile investigation such as this, you need to have clear strategies to follow: CCTV, witnesses, learning everything you can about the victim, securing the crime scene, logging exhibits, liaising with the missing person’s family, checking their finances, starting house-to-house inquiries and, crucially, having a robust search plan and a media plan.’

Mr Harding said that, given the missing mother’s apparent routine events leading up to the dog walk, her case should have been graded ‘at the highest possible risk’.

He also criticised he public messaging of police, first revealing the working hypothesis that she fell into the river before undermining it by saying they have an ‘open mind’.

He added: ‘The police settled on a tragic accident and made their thinking public within days. But to say this to the family and media, you must be 100 per cent certain. It undermined the later statement that they had an “open mind”.

‘So why have the police doggedly stuck with their initial drowning hypothesis? I would have demanded evidence and facts that made me totally sure this was the case before telling the public there had been “no third-party involvement”.

Ms Bulley, 45, disappeared without a trace at around 9.20am as she walked her dog Willow

Nicola’s mobile phone was found on this bench with Willow’s lead and harness on the ground

‘If every possible route in and out of that area is not covered by CCTV — as is likely in the countryside — you simply cannot be sure that someone else is not involved.’

Police have insisted that their main working hypothesis is that Ms Bulley fell in the river as investigations enter a 17th day, despite suggestions from friends and independent investigators that it is unlikely. 

Detectives were seen searching an area seven miles away from where Nicola went missing earlier this week and the search was expanded to Morecambe Bay. 

But Mr Harding has described the hypothesis as ‘an incredibly damaging message’ as police cannot be 100 per cent sure she did not leave the area.

Instead, Mr Harding adds, this discourages the public from contacting police with potential evidence. 

He has called on Lancashire Police to release any further information it is in possession of to the public to help curb ongoing speculation among the amateur sleuths.

The former detective also warned of cops having ‘already made up their minds’ that the disappearance was an accident’.

Yellow ribbons with messages of hope written on them, are tied to a bridge over the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire

A missing person appeal poster for Nicola Bulley on a bridge crossing the River Wyre on Saturday

It comes as a witness has reportedly told police they saw two men ‘acting suspiciously’ outside a church close to where Nicola Bulley went missing – a day before her disappearance.

They say they then saw one the two men in the same area on the morning she went missing, amid increasing signs that police are beginning to treat the disappearance as a crime.

Detectives are understood to have subsequently visited St Michael’s Garage on Thursday to request CCTV from the time of the witness’ report.

Source: Read Full Article