Police searching for mother-of-two Nicola Bulley in the United Kingdom have found a body “less than a mile” from where she vanished 23 days ago.
Bulley, 45, was last seen in St Michael’s in the English county Lancashire at about 9.15am, local time, on January 27.
The mystery surrounding her disappearance sparked a massive search by authorities and drew international attention. While Bulley’s mobile phone was found – still connected to a work conference call – along with her pet dog Willow, there was no trace of her.
On Sunday afternoon, UK time, police searching for her confirmed a body had been found near the place where she was last seen, The Sun reports.
They said no formal identification had been completed, so it remains unclear whether the human remains found belong to Bulley.
“We were called today at 11.36am to reports of a body in the River Wyre, close to Rawcliffe Road,” police said in a statement.
“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 ongoing. 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.”
The discovery came shortly after police closed off the area in question. Divers were seen entering the water after two police cars raced to the scene.
A police helicopter circled above as a man and woman were seen pointing to the spot where the new search was launched.
Earlier, police sparked controversy by disclosing details of Bulley’s personal life, saying she had been treated as a “high-risk” missing person because she had “vulnerabilities”, including a struggle with alcohol.
“This caused some real challenges for [her partner] Paul and the family,” police said at the time.
“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 10.
“No one has been arrested in relation to this incident, but it is being investigated.”
Officers have defended their decision to release the personal information after being slammed by MPs and former cops.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has ordered the force to explain why the details were revealed and police have now referred themselves to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
They released a statement from Nicola’s family begging for the public to “focus on finding her”.
“The police know the truth about Nikki and now the public needs to focus on finding her,” the family’s statement read.
“Due to the perimenopause, Nikki suffered from 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.
“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.”
Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith reiterated last week that the police’s “main working hypothesis” was that she fell in the river.
But she revealed two other theories regarding her disappearance – Nicola leaving the area voluntarily and third-party involvement.
Officers had moved their search for the mum several kilometres away to the coast after believing Nicola could have been carried out to sea.
Last Friday, Nicola’s partner Paul Ansell told Channel 5 “something happened that day” as people do just “vanish into thin air”.
He also spoke of his torment at her disappearance two weeks after she was last seen.
On Vanished: What happened to Nicola Bulley?, Paul said: “It just doesn’t feel real. I feel like I’m in the Truman show.
“Like, I honestly believe I’m going to wake up at any moment … how are we even in this? We are good people.”
Paul also said he felt “anger, loads of frustration, confusion, disbelief, surrealism” as the family went through “unprecedented hell”.