A former detective has said that Lancashire Police have “completely destroyed” Nicola Bulley’s reputation by revealing her struggles with alcohol.
Martyn Underhill told Sky News that he had never “seen such a level of detail” released in a missing persons case and added that one had to ask why officers were releasing it now.
Ms Bulley has been missing since 27 January after vanishing when she took her dog for a walk by the River Wyre in Lancashire.
Speaking to Kay Burley, Mr Underhill, who was a detective involved in the Sarah Payne case, said: “If they had released that on day one, it would have completely changed the dynamic and the coverage of this story and, perhaps, prevented it becoming the juggernaut story it now is.
“I’m confused why they’ve done what they’ve done now.
“You can understand why some people are saying it’s victim blaming to protect their own reputation.
“I can’t see how it progresses the case any further forward now we’re three weeks in, to be frank.”
Image: Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson (left) and Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith of Lancashire Police update the media in St Michael’s on Wyre Having apparently found no trace of the mother-of-two for more than 20 days, police yesterday revealed that they had classified Ms Bulley as “high risk” owing to “a number of specific vulnerabilities”.
After initially refusing to elaborate on what those vulnerabilities were at a press conference, Lancashire Police subsequently released a statement saying: “Nicola had in the past suffered with some significant issues with alcohol which were brought on by her ongoing struggles with the menopause and that these struggles had resurfaced over recent months.”
“This caused some real challenges for Paul and the family,” it added in a reference to Ms Bulley’s partner, Paul Ansell.
Previous police house call
The police also revealed that they had been at Ms Bulley’s house the week before she disappeared to check her welfare which Mr Underhill agreed this would have suggested another line of inquiry.
He said: “Particularly since they say it was a police car with police and health professionals, the subtext of that is that this was a mental health car.
“Clearly this wasn’t a domestic abuse scenario or a drunken person scenario it was a mental health incident which Nicola was suffering.
“That is crucial, really, I’m amazed it hasn’t been released before and, of course, on 3 February in their press conference they actually said there were ‘no significant issues involving Nicola’s health’.
“I can understand in some ways why they didn’t release it then as it would completely destroy her reputation.
“It’s a big move to take but if you aren’t going to take it at the start of the investigation, why do it now?”
MP’s accuse force of ‘victim blaming’
Lancashire Police’s decision to revel Ms Bulley’s mental health and alcohol issues has drawn widespread condemnation, with two MPs lambasting the move on Twitter.
Labour’s Stella Creasey said: “The decision to disclose this level of detail on a missing person’s private life, with no evidence that this is assisting in finding her, is deeply troubling.
“The police need to be much clearer as to why any of this helps find Nicola Bulley or support this investigation.”
Conservative MP Alicia Kearns said she was “deeply uncomfortable” with the police release details about Ms Bulley’s “so called ‘vulnerabilities’ on menopause and alcohol.
“I struggle to ascertain how this will assist Police in their search & investigations,” she wrote, adding, “I do see how it would assist those wishing to victim-blame or diminish.”
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
Un-named Video Ms Bulley was last seen at 9.10am on 27 January 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.