Home Secretary says body find in Nicola Bulley search 'heart-breaking'

Home Secretary Suella Braverman says discovery of body in river near to where Nicola Bulley went missing is a ‘heart-breaking and distressing development’ as dive expert called in to hunt for mother-of-two says thoughts are with her family

  • Police confirmed on Sunday afternoon a body had been found in the River Wyre
  • The Home Secretary previously questioned Lancashire police tactics in the case

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has described news that a body has been found in the hunt for missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley as ‘heart-breaking’ – as underwater search expert Peter Faulding said his thoughts are with her family and friends.

Police confirmed earlier this afternoon that a body had been discovered in the River Wyre in Lancashire, less than a mile from where the 45-year-old disappeared on January 27. 

Two walkers are understood to have made the discovery and reported it to Lancashire Police at just after 11.30am.

Police stressed that the body has not been formally identified but that Ms Bulley’s family had been informed of the development.

On Sunday Ms Braverman tweeted: ‘These are truly heart-breaking and distressing developments.

Members of specialist police search teams and police divers launched a new search of a stretch of the River Wyre on Sunday after a tip-off from two walkers

Nicola Bulley, 45, went missing early on the morning of January 27, more than three weeks ago

A member of the public today appears to point towards a spot in the undergrowth by the river Wyre while police watch on

‘My thoughts remain with Nicola’s family at this extremely difficult time.’

Ms Braverman previously criticised the police investigation after officers revealed personal information about Ms Bulley’s struggle with peri-menopause and alcohol issues.

A source close to Ms Braverman told MailOnline: ‘The Home Secretary today [Friday] spoke with Lancashire Police Chief Constable Chris Rowley and his senior team to discuss the handling of the investigation into the disappearance of Nicola Bulley. 

‘She outlined her concerns over the disclosure of Ms Bulley’s personal information and listened to the force’s explanation. 

‘The Home Secretary asked to be kept updated on the investigation.’ 

Earlier today Police scrambled a huge search after the two walkers spotted the body.

The male walker was seen ashen faced at the scene as he talked to police and pointed at an outcrop of trees and undergrowth along the bank, saying: ‘There’s definitely a body there’.

By 1pm on Sunday police drones and a helicopter hovered over the outcrop of trees and undergrowth, while police divers took to the banks of the river Wyre.

Soon afterwards, Lancashire Police confirmed that a body had been located in the river. 

Meanwhile underwater search expert and CEO of Specialist Group International Peter Faulding, who conducted a three day search of the River Wyre using sonar equipment, tweeted this afternoon: ‘Our thoughts are with Nicola’s family and friends at this difficult time.’

Mr Faulding previously conducted an extensive search of the River Wyre alongside members of his team for Ms Bulley before taking the unusual step of publicly she was ‘not there’.

He told MailOnline at the time: ‘We have the best piece of equipment you can buy. If I can’t find them, it means they’re not there.

‘That’s how confident I am. It’s the same for buried human remains, if someone’s in the woods I will find them.’

‘The area where Nicola went in was searched thoroughly by very professional police divers on the day – very thoroughly – and she was not there, which leads me to believe that she is not in that river.

‘But we got involved 10 days after them. We re-searched that area with up and down streams extremely thoroughly, with high-frequency side scan sonar.’

He added: ‘If Nicola had been in the river she would’ve floated up by now. She’s not in the river.’

At least three police cars and a van rushed to the scene, with other cars soon following

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith, the senior investigating officer in Ms Bulley’s case, arrives at the scene of the search

Diving and search specialists discuss the situation with one another from the side of the bank

A police helicopter is reported to have circled overhead for around 25 minutes

Read more: Body is found by police in hunt for missing Nicola Bulley following tip off from walkers: Divers recover body from river less than one mile from where mother-of-two vanished 23 days ago 

Along with Peter Faulding, a series of specialists have been drafted in on the Nicola Bulley case including one of the UK’s top detectives.

The unnamed National Crime Agency (NCA) investigator previously worked on the probe into morgue monster David Fuller. 

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: ‘We were called today at 11.36am to reports of a body in the River Wyre, close to Rawcliffe Road. 

‘An underwater search team and specialist officers have subsequently attended the scene, entered the water and have sadly recovered a body. 

‘No formal identification has yet been carried out, so we are unable to say whether this is Nicola Bulley at this time.

‘Procedures to identify the body are on-going. 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. We ask that their privacy is respected.’

A tent has been erected and a wide cordon remains in place.

A massive police presence descended on the village three weeks ago with dozens of officers, divers, search experts and high-tech equipment including drones. 

Her partner Paul Ansell, 44, has maintained hope she is still alive despite officers saying their main working hypothesis remains that Ms Bulley is in the river.

Ms Bulley vanished after dropping off her daughters, aged six and nine, at school on January 27 in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.

She was last seen at 9.10am taking her usual route with her springer spaniel Willow, alongside the River Wyre, shortly after dropping her girls, aged nine and six, off at school. 

Her phone, still connected to a work call, was found just over 20 minutes later on a bench overlooking the riverbank, with her dog running loose.

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