UK police confirm body found in river is missing mother Nicola Bulley

Nicola Bulley went missing on the morning of Friday, January 27.
Nicola Bulley went missing on the morning of Friday, January 27. Photo credit: Supplied / Lancashire Police

The body of missing British mother Nicola Bulley was identified by UK police on Monday, weeks after she disappeared while walking her dog in northern England in January.

Lancashire Police confirmed in a news conference Monday that a body recovered from the River Wyre on Sunday, close to where 45-year-old Bulley was last seen, is hers.

"Sadly, we are now able to confirm that yesterday we recovered Nicola Bulley from the River Wyre," Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson told reporters.

"Nicola's family have been informed and are of course devastated. Our thoughts are with them at this time, as well as with all her loved ones and the wider community," he said.

The announcement caps off a turbulent and emotional few weeks when police faced widespread criticism of sexism in their investigation, and a social media frenzy around her disappearance was mired in unfounded claims and conspiracy theories.

Bulley, a mortgage adviser, went missing on the morning of Friday, January 27. Police say she was walking her dog after dropping her two children off at school.

A short while later, her dog was found wandering alone and her phone spotted on a bench next to the river, still logged into a group work call. But for three weeks, the search launched by Lancashire Police drew a blank.

Lancashire Police's Detective Chief Superintendent Pauline Stables read a statement on behalf of Nicola's family on Monday, in which they said the body identification had confirmed their "worst fears." "We will never be able to comprehend what Nicky had gone through in her last moment," it said.

"Our girls will get the support they need from the people who love them the most. It saddens us to think that one day we will have to explain to them that the press and members of the public accused their dad of wrongdoing (and) misquoted and vilified friends and family. This is absolutely appalling. They have to be held accountable. This cannot happen to another family.," the statement added.

Lancashire police officers have insisted throughout the investigation that there is no evidence to indicate third-party involvement and their main working hypothesis remained that she fell into the River Wyre.

The case baffled the public and attracted widespread media attention, with police also -- unusually -- choosing to reveal that Bulley had been struggling with alcohol issues and menopause at the time of her disappearance.

Last week saw investigators sharply criticize members of the public they said were pedaling "persistent myths."

Lancashire Police Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith told journalists on Wednesday that the social media frenzy had "significantly distracted" the investigation. "In 29 years' police service, I've never seen anything like it," Smith said.

Social media users "playing private detectives" and pedaling "persistent myths" on Tik Tok had "significantly distracted" the investigation, Smith told journalists last week.

The family also fiercely rebuked journalists in their statement, lambasting some major UK media outlets as "shameful" for making direct contact with the family when they "expressly asked for privacy."

Lancashire Police's decision to reveal personal details about Bulley sparked widespread criticism, with many accusing the force of sexism. Even the government slammed the police, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman raising concerns over its handling of the case.

Stephanie Benyon, a friend of Bulley's whose children attend the same school, previously told CNN that she is a "kind, loyal and thoughtful person who adores her two girls and family and friends." Bulley's partner of 12 years, Paul Ansell, had described the situation as a "perpetual hell."