Police have found a body in the search for missing mother-of-two Nicola Bulley after a tip-off from walkers, more than three weeks after she disappeared.

A huge search operation was launched this morning at a spot less than a mile from where the 45-year-old went missing in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.

Senior Investigating Officer Rebecca Smith was seen arriving at the scene as Lancashire Police confirmed the discovery.

The force said they were unable to confirm whether the body is of missing Ms Bulley at this time as they wait for formal identification to be carried out.

A spokesman 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.

Police scrambled a huge search after the two walkers spotted the body. Detective superintendent Smith arrived moments before police confirmed the heartbreaking discovery.

The male walker was seen ashen faced 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.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman described developments in the case of Nicola Bulley as ‘heart-breaking and distressing’ after a body was found in the River Wyre.

She tweeted: ‘These are heart-breaking and distressing developments. My thoughts remain with Nicola’s family at this extremely difficult time.’

Before the discovery was confirmed, a witness said: ‘I drove down Rawcliffe Road for almost a mile. I noticed a man and a woman and two police officers on the embankment.

‘I pulled off at about 11.50am and I heard the man talking to police about something in the undergrowth.

‘Police cars were flying down the road with the blues and twos going. A police officer pulled up a few minutes later and got his drone out.

‘Five minutes later the police helicopter arrived. Officers then asked to me get out so I moved 200 yards down the road.

‘I could still clearly see the man pointing at the riverbank. Then more police cars raced down with the blues and twos going. They cleared the entire road.’

The man and woman were later seen sat on a wall by the scene looking ashen faced and vaping.

The 45-year-old mother-of-two was last seen on January 27 while walking her dog by the river in St Michael’s-on-Wyre after dropping her daughters – aged six and nine – at school.

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

Specialist searchers including Peter Faulding, who scoured the river using sonar equipment, also spent days in the area.

Mr Faulding took the unusual move of publicly stating he did not believe Ms Bulley was in the river, as it was so shallow she could simply have ‘stood up’ if she fell in.

After the news of Sunday’s discovery, Mr Faulding tweeted: ‘Our thoughts are with Nicola’s family and friends at this difficult time.’

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.

Speaking about the new search, former Scotland Yard Detective Peter Bleksley told Sky News: ‘If ever there’s a sign of information that is received by the police… then seeing lots of resources deployed in a fairly short space of time is not uncommon.’


On February 3, Lancashire Police told the public of its main hypothesis that Ms Bulley had fallen into the River Wyre in a ’10-minute window’ between 9.10am and 9.20am on the day she disappeared.

But multiple experts and Ms Bulley’s own family said they did not believe this to be true.

This week they held a second press conference in which they referenced individual ‘vulnerabilities’ that meant she had immediately been classed as a ‘high-risk’ missing persons case.

But hours later they issued a shock statement detailing Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol, brought on by significant symptoms of being peri-menopausal and having stopped taking her HRT medication.

Ms Bulley’s family said in a statement on Friday that they feared her decision to stop taking her hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs may have played a factor in her disappearance.

‘Due to the perimenopause Nikki suffered with significant side effects such as brain fog, restless sleep and was taking HRT to help but this was giving her intense headaches which caused Nikki to stop taking the HRT thinking that may have helped her but only ended up causing this crisis,’ the statement said.

They added: ‘Nikki is such a wonderful daughter, sister, partner and mother and is missed dearly – we all need you back in our lives.

‘Nikki, we hope you are reading this and know that we love you so much and your girls want a cuddle. We all need you home.’

Today’s news came after it was revealed overnight one of the UK’s top detectives was personally advising Lancashire Police on the case.

The unnamed detective from the NCA, often referred to as Britain’s FBI, has worked on some of the UK’s most high-profile cases including killer and morgue monster David Fuller and the murder of PCSO Julia James, the organisation told MailOnline.

The police have so far failed to find Ms Bulley, 45, after she vanished without a trace while walking her springer spaniel, named Willow, more than three weeks ago.

Lancashire Police have also received the aid of a forensic psychologist and dog behavioural expert.

It comes amid fierce criticism of police for releasing personal health details about Ms Bulley this week, including from Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt and PM Rishi Sunak.

Criticism of the force has been mounting since the 45-year-old’s disappearance on January 27.


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