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The heartbroken parents of Nicola Bulley have left a poignant message to their missing daughter with the words “We pray every day for you. Love you. Mum and dad xxx” written on yellow ribbons tied to a bridge over the river where she was last seen.
Ernest, 73, and Dot, 72, have left the moving words for their 45-year-old daughter on the tributes left on a footbridge over the River Wyre, in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancs, where Ms Bulley was last seen walking her dog Willow on January 27. Yesterday Lancashire Police took the unusual decision to reveal Ms Bulley had been struggling with alcohol and the menopause.
A former detective now looking at Ms Bulley’s case said her family were in a “terrible place” after the police made the admissions to the nation about the mother-of-two’s health.
Mark Williams-Thomas, a former police officer turned investigative journalist, is now scrutinising Ms Bulley’s case. He tweeted today: ‘If police dealt with high risk status at [the] start it would have provided much more understanding, leading to less confusion, public hysteria & media involvement (which police haven’t coped with ) & led to less damage to [Nicola’s partner] Paul & family, who are right now after y/day in a terrible place’.
Lancashire Police have been working on the theory Ms Bulley fell into the river but speaking to the Mirror earlier this month her parents said there was no evidence she had gone into the water.
Ernest said: “There was no sign of a slip or falling in so our thought was ‘has somebody got her’? I asked the Sergeant from Fleetwood a few days ago, ‘is there any chance of her being taken’ and she said ‘I don’t think that’s the case’.
“I said ‘how can you know that?’, it’s such an isolated area, the only way that has happened is if it was someone who knew her.”
At the time Ms Bulley had been missing for six days and her family said they would not give up hope of finding her.
Ernest said: “We just dread to think we will never see her again, if the worst came to the worst and she was never found, how will we deal with that for the rest of our lives. We will never stop looking.”
Senior officers said on Wednesday that Ms Bulley was “vulnerable” and classed by police as a “high-risk” missing person immediately after her partner Paul Ansell reported her disappearance.
After Lancashire Police revealed her issues with alcohol “brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause”, the force was strongly condemned by MPs and campaign groups.
Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Twitter: “I am deeply uncomfortable with the police releasing Nicola Bulley’s so-called ‘vulnerabilities’ on menopause and alcohol.
“I struggle to ascertain how this will assist police in their search & investigations. I do see how it would assist those wishing to victim-blame or diminish.”
Silkie Carlo, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, tweeted: “Lancashire Police broadcasting missing Nicola Bulley’s health issues and hormone status to the world is a serious invasion of her privacy with no obvious benefits for the investigation.
“A shocking decision when the police’s treatment of women is rightly in the spotlight.”
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.
Her phone, still connected to a work call for her job as a mortgage adviser, was found just over 20 minutes later on a bench overlooking the riverbank, with her dog running loose.
Since she vanished, huge public and media interest has resulted in what police described as “false information, accusations and rumours” and an “unprecedented” search of both the River Wyre, downstream to Morecambe Bay and miles of neighbouring farmland.
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