Nicola Bulley inquest: Live updates as first day of inquest into death of mother-of-two in River Wyre begins
Ms Bulley, 45, went missing after dropping her daughters, aged six and nine, at school, then taking her usual dog walk along the River Wyre in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, on January 27. Her phone, still connected to a work Teams call, was found on a bench overlooking the water.
Ms Bulley, a mortgage adviser originally from near Chelmsford but living in Inskip, was immediately deemed a “high risk” missing person, sparking a huge police search operation, with hundreds of local search volunteers and intense media and public interest.
Private underwater search specialists were also called in by her family amid a conspiratorial social media frenzy fuelling waves of sightseers and content creators visiting the scene. Both police and media faced criticism after her body was found in the river around a mile farther downstream from the bench, on February 19.
Police had urged people not to speculate about the disappearance and maintained from early on there were no suspicious circumstances and that Ms Bulley may have gone into the water due to an “issue” with her springer spaniel dog, Willow.
The inquest, expected to last two days, will begin at the County Hall, Preston, before Dr James Adeley, Senior Coroner for Lancashire. Follow the latest updates below.
Nicola Bulley inquest as coroner probes mum-of-two’s death - latest updates
Over the next two days Nicola Bulley’s family will hope to learn more about her final movements.
The mother-of-two’s disappearance in January while walking her dog along the River Wyre sparked unprecedented public and media attention. Her body was found in the water on February 19.
Now, over the next two days at County Hall in Preston, the circumstances around her death will be examined by Lancahire’s Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley.
We’ll keep you across the very latest. Proceedings begin at 10am and are expected to carry on into tomorrow.
What will happen over the next two days?
Around 100 people are expected to be in attendance over the next couple of days including family, friends, expert witnesses and the media.
Inquests set out to answer four key questions. Who the deceased was, when and where they died, the medical cause of their death and how they came by their death.
The focus is usually on the final question. Inquest hearings are based entirely around facts and do not deal with blame or responsibility. They are important to establish answers for bereaved families and can also serve to highlight lessons that need to be learned in future cases.
Diver hits out ahead of inquest
Peter Faulding, CEO of Specialist Group International (SGI), helped search the River Wyre in St Michael’s after Ms Bulley disappeared while walking her dog on the morning of January 27.
He later faced criticism for fuelling speculation following his many TV appearances in which he repeatedly raised doubts about the police theory that Nicola entered the river, claiming details in the case “don’t add up”.
His comments led to a fractured relationship with Lancashire Police, with the force suggesting that such statements had contributed to the spread of ‘misinformed speculation’ on social media.
In his latest statement he sets out to “clarify questions from the press and public” and states how he has had no contact with Lancashire Police or the coroner tasked with investigating how exactly Ms Bulley came to her death.
What happened at the opening of Nicola Bulley’s inquest?
When the inquest was opened and adjourned in February, Dr James Adeley said a hospital consultant had identified her body from dental records provided by Nicola’s surgery in Great Eccleston.
Arrangements were also made for the hearing in June, with the intervening four months allowing for the facts of the case to be established and for experts who will be used to “finalise their findings”.
Why police divers were seen back in the River Wyre in April
Police divers were spotted in the River Wyre on April 4 and a brief clip was uploaded to YouTube, prompting speculation about the activity on social media.
A Lancashire police spokesman said: “There has been misinformed speculation over the past few days relating to police activity in the River Wyre.
“As previously stated, police divers were acting under instruction of HM Senior Coroner and had been asked to assess the riverbanks in the vicinity of where Nicola Bulley went missing.
“They had not been tasked either to perform any further searches within the river or along the banks or to locate any articles. This activity is to assist with the coronial process.”
What outcomes could there be?
These are often also described as a ‘verdict’ and can include labels such as ‘natural causes’ or ‘accidental death’. Coroners do not however have to use them and can create new ones or simply write a narrative of the facts of the case.
Either way, these tough events can ultimately bring closure for bereaved families.
Outside County Hall
Proceedings begin in just under an hour. Reporter Brian Ellis explains what to expect over the next couple of days.
People are still filing into County Hall meaning we’ll start a little later than planned.
Among tomorrow’s witnesses are Nicola Bulley’s partner and sister.
Paul Ansell and Louise Cunningham are both listed as scheduled to appear at the end of the two days.
Timeline of events
As we wait for proceedings to begin, a reminder of what we know of the day Nicola Bulley disappeared - January 27.
8.26am – Ms Bulley left her home with her two daughters, aged six and nine, dropping them off at school and engaging in a brief conversation with another parent around 15 minutes later.
8.43am – She then took her spaniel, Willow, for a walk along the path by the River Wyre.
8.50am – A dog walker who knew her saw her, and their pets interacted briefly before they parted ways.
8.53am – Ms Bulley sent an email to her boss, followed by a message to her friends six minutes later.
9.01am – She logs on to a work Microsoft Teams call.
9.10am – Last known sighting of Ms Bulley by a second witness.
9.20am – Her phone was back in the area of the bench before the Teams call ended 10 minutes later, with her mobile remaining logged on after the call.
9.33am – Another dog walker found her phone on a bench beside the river, with her dog darting between the two.
10.50am – Ms Bulley’s family and the school attended by her children were told about her disappearance. Police are called and she is deemed a “high risk” missing person.