Police Identify Body in River as That of Missing British Woman
The police said Monday that they had discovered the body of Nicola Bulley, a 45-year-old woman whose Jan. 27 disappearance had attracted feverish attention in Britain and focused scrutiny on the conduct of the local police force.
Officials pulled her body Sunday from a river in the village of St. Michael’s on Wyre, about 45 miles northwest of Manchester.
The revelation was the latest in a high-profile case that has fueled a national debate over privacy and the treatment of missing women by the authorities after the local police force revealed personal details about Ms. Bulley’s life, saying she had “problems with alcohol” and struggled with menopause.
The details, they said, were disclosed to clarify why Ms. Bulley had been considered a “high-risk” missing person, and after her disappearance had spurred mass public interest. But critics of the police called their sharing of such information inappropriate and suggested it was sexist. In a statement on Monday, the family expressed resentment at the news coverage of Mr. Bulley’s death.
They said the news media wrongfully accused Ms. Bulley’s partner of wrongdoing, and misquoted and vilified friends and family.
“This is absolutely appalling,” they wrote. “They have to be held accountable this cannot happen to another family.”
The family added that two major news organizations contacted the family directly “when we expressly asked for privacy” as they were trying to take in the news of Ms. Bulley’s death.
“It is shameful they have acted in this way. Leave us alone now. Do the press and other media channels and so called professionals not know when to stop? These are our lives and our children’s lives,” they wrote.
A mortgage adviser, Ms. Bulley went missing on Jan. 27 after she dropped her two daughters off at school. She was last spotted walking her dog on a path near the River Wyre and had been on a work call, with her phone muted and its video off.
The dog was later found running around and the phone was discovered on a bench, still logged on to the call. The police had said that they believed Ms. Bulley had fallen into the river and that there was no evidence of suspicious activity. .
The mystery surrounding Ms. Bulley’s disappearance brought a flood of attention to St. Michael’s on Wyre, drawing self-proclaimed sleuths who combed the area for clues and posted theories and updates on the case on social media sites like TikTok. The police called such investigatory efforts “hurtful” to Ms. Bulley’s family.
In the week before the discovery of her body, the Lancashire Constabulary described details of Ms. Bulley’s private life, issuing a statement in what they called “an unusual step,” that aimed “to avoid any further speculation or misinterpretation.”
The statement said she had had “some significant issues with alcohol” prompted by her struggles with menopause and that the problems had resurfaced in recent months.
Her disappearance came after the police and health professionals were called to Ms. Bulley’s home in the village of Inskip, Lancashire, on Jan. 10 over “a report of concern for welfare,” but it was unclear who made the call. Inskip is near St. Michael’s on Wyre.
The revelations about her struggles prompted a backlash that drew criticism from members of Parliament, who called the disclosures an invasion of Ms. Bulley’s privacy. It led Britain’s independent data privacy authority to announce it would investigate the Lancashire Police force’s decision to release such information.
Ms. Bulley’s family had said in a statement that though “we know that Nikki would not have wanted this,” they were aware that the police would disclose details about her problems. Ms. Bulley, who had a partner and two young children, had been undergoing hormonereplacement therapy to help relieve the symptoms of perimenopause, they said, which caused her headaches.
The furor over the disclosures comes as police forces in Britain have been under scrutiny after a spate of high-profile cases have raised questions about policing practices. A report released last year by the country’s independent police watchdog found what it called “a culture of misogyny, sexism and predatory behavior toward members of the public,” including toward female staff and officers in police forces around Britain.