Officers are being as “transparent as they can be” in what is an “incredibly sensitive and complex case” as the search for Nicola Bulley approaches its fourth week, Lancashire’s police and crime commissioner has said.
Andrew Snowden made the remarks after police revealed Ms Bulley had suffered “significant issues with alcohol” which were “brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause”.
Police said these struggles had “resurfaced over recent months”.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has demanded an “explanation” from police over the decision to reveal details of the mother-of-two’s private life.
A former detective told Sky News that Lancashire Police has “completely destroyed” Nicola Bulley’s reputation by revealing her struggles with alcohol.
In his statement, Mr Snowden said: “I, like everyone up and down the country, am deeply saddened by this case and want nothing more than for Nicola to be found safe and well and reunited with her family.
“The police are being as transparent as they can be on what is an incredibly sensitive and complex case – this includes continued external support from the National Crime Agency and others as appropriate.”
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The police and crime commissioner’s statement comes after the force in Lancashire said amateur sleuths and social media video-makers who have been coming up with their own theories about Ms Bulley have “distracted significantly” from police efforts to find her.
“In 29 years’ police service I’ve never seen anything like it. Some of it’s been quite shocking and really hurtful to the family,” senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith said in a briefing earlier this week.
This week a YouTuber was searching for Ms Bulley was handed a fixed penalty notice under section 4 of the Public Order Act: fear of provocation of violence.
Dan Duffy, 36, had posted a number of videos on TikTok since Ms Bully went missing on 27 January.
Mr Snowden said: “The unprecedented media and public interest in this case, whilst welcomed for appeals for information, is challenging for the family and friends of Nicola and officers and police staff dealing with unsubstantiated rumours and speculation on a daily basis.
“I’d like to thank all members of the public who have provided helpful information to Lancashire Police.”
Mr Snowden’s comments also come as Wyre Council leader Michael Vincent told Sky News there are “lessons to be learned” for police searching for Ms Bulley.
He added: “But I think they’ve done their best in difficult circumstances.”
Talking about the personal information about Ms Bulley revealed by police, Mr Vincent said: “That was put out there with the knowledge of Nicola’s family because other people were seeking to make that information public.
“That wasn’t the police’s decision, their hand was forced, should they have done it? Again, with the benefit of hindsight, that should be looked into in future cases.”
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Mr Vincent also revealed local residents in the village where Ms Bulley disappeared have employed an external security company because of interest in the case.
He told Sky News: “People have reported being sat in their living rooms in an afternoon watching television and people coming up to the windows, peering in, trying the doors, it’s been terrifying for them.
“These are typically older people extremely scared in their own homes.”
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Meanwhile, former victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird said the way personal information was released about Ms Bulley was “sexist” and a “dreadful error”.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “A future family like this is going to face the torment of not knowing whether to run the risk of gratuitously wrecking your relative’s reputation by giving every detail away… or missing the chance of catching whoever has got them, or getting her back.
“So, I’m afraid this is the biggest error that I have seen for quite a long time. It’s going to just, you know, very sadly, to undermine trust in the police yet further.”
Ms Bulley disappeared while walking her dog in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre after she dropped her two daughters – aged six and nine – at school on 27 January.
Police have said they are keeping an open mind but their “main working hypothesis” has been that the 45-year-old mortgage adviser fell into the River Wyre during a “10-minute window” between 9.10am and 9.20am that day.