Nicola Bulley’s death was a “tragic accident” despite the “rumour and suspicion” surrounding her disappearance, her inquest has heard.
Ms. Bulley’s family’s attorney, Sophie Cartwright KC, stated in her final presentations to the coroner that all the evidence pointed to her entering the River Wyre by accident on January 27 and quickly drowning there.
It happened at the same time as her sister Louise Cunningham and emotional partner Paul Ansell expressed worries at the Preston County Hall hearing about the 45-year-old mother-of-two’s struggle with menopause and rise in alcohol consumption in the month prior to her passing.
On January 10 of this year, a mental health nurse was requested to visit the family’s residence to meet with Ms. Bulley.
However, they brushed this off as a “blip,” claiming that she was in excellent spirits, making plans for the future, and enjoying life at the time of her disappearance.
On January 27, Ms. Bulley vanished after dropping off her two girls, ages six and nine, at school and going for her regularly scheduled dog walk along the river in St. Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
Her springer spaniel puppy, Willow, was found roaming loose and her mobile phone was discovered on a seat overlooking the water still on a work Teams call.
Her body was discovered in the river approximately a mile from the bench on February 19 after a massive police investigation after her abduction.
Ms Cartwright said: “What happened on the river bank shortly after 9.18am was a tragic accident.
“There has been much rumour and suspicion and speculation around Nikki’s death but the family are very clearly of the view and submit to you that that rumour and speculation is allayed completely when looking at all the evidence.
“Nikki’s death would have occurred very shortly after she entered the water.”
Ms. Cartwright noted the testimony provided on Monday by specialists in drowning, who claimed that the shock of a person entering extremely cold water might cause them to drown in just a few seconds.
Dr. Rebecca Grey, Ms. Bulley’s general practitioner, had earlier stated that while Ms. Bulley had been treated for HRT medication for the menopause and for anxiety and low mood symptoms, “nothing” in her medical records suggested she was suicidal or planning self-harm.
The relatives of Ms. Bulley paid her moving tributes when they testified.
After raising her daughters, Ms. Cunningham said she enjoyed resuming her job as a mortgage adviser while combining her work and home life as a busy mother. Ms. Cunningham referred to her as “my big sister”.
She continued by saying that while her drinking “had a blip” over the recent holiday season, it subsided in January and she was soon “back to the normal Nikki.”
She also said that Ms. Bulley treated her dog Willow like a “third child” and under no circumstances would have left her unsupervised on purpose.
Mr Ansell, Ms Bulley’s partner of 12 years, said: “The blip over the Christmas period happened but in January she was back to herself, looking forward to the future and everything was on the up.
“She had a good day the day before (she went missing), came home full of beans, excited with work, with the meetings she had and plans for the year.”
Mr. Ansell was questioned by senior coroner for Lancashire, Dr. James Adeley, if Ms. Bulley had ever considered suicide.
Mr Ansell replied: “There were a couple of throwaway comments during the blip period but nothing that gave me any concern.”
Breaking down in tears, he added: “She was an incredible mum.”
Ernest Bulley, her father, added: “As a child she was lovely, a little ballerina, she always danced around in her tutu. She was great.
“She was a great daughter, sister and mother, we couldn’t ask for any more from her.”
On Tuesday, shortly after 2 p.m., the coroner is anticipated to announce his findings.