As a crime fiction writer, when the news surfaced that a lady had disappeared in late January, from a quiet and close-knit town in the United Kingdom, after a last sighting by a river not only did my heart go out to her family, I was intrigued. Things that I often imagine and write about do happen in real life, sadly.
I followed the case naturally out of concern, fear, interest, and as I was a bit confused as to why the police ruled out any foul play so soon. Their theory was almost straight away that she had entered the water, somehow.
Sure, the facts are that her phone was found logged into a work call still after the conference with her co-workers ended, her dog and its harness were left on the bench where she was last seen along with her phone, and then there was the crucial ten minutes between sightings of her that could not be accounted for. Personally speaking, I found the dismissal and assumption made with no body a bit much, too soon. How could they assume Nicola went into the water with no body or other evidence? This really bugged me, and I felt a little disappointment at the police’s view point. I supported her family in their public statements that they are ‘not giving up hope’ without any evidence to suggest that they should.
Up until yesterday ( at the time of me writing this around the 20th of February 2023), Nicola Bulley had been missing for twenty-four days. During this time the police released information that she was a ‘high risk’ case due to ‘ significant troubles with alcohol brought on by her menopause experience.’ From what I had understood, the police in her local town had had contact with Nicola regarding her struggles. Now if your eyebrows shot up after reading the last sentence, you’re not alone. When I heard this on the local news, I immediately thought to myself, ‘they’ve gone way too far with that info.’ Why would the police release such personal information? Why would they do this given the fact that they have already assumed she entered the water, yet had no body to prove this? I pondered this and my theory at the time was that:
- They wanted to highlight her ‘character’ and ‘troubles’ and make their theory that she entered the water more plausible.
- To sway public opinion on the case.
- To show that the possibility that she did enter the water ( of her own accord) more believable.
Regardless of why they did it, it sparked outrage even with the government and from what I last heard they are investigating how the information was leaked, from within their own sources. But how is not the question, why is not even the question, for me it’s simply: did they go too far? This is not a critique of the police it’s just my own opinion. It made no sense to me why they would do that outside of the reasons I came up with above, and I also felt as a woman myself that this kind of information is not something that really needs to be broadcasted to the world. However, was this really needed? Should they even have released this information on her? I guess it will depend on who you are, or what gender you are with the answers.
Sadly, they did find Nicola Bulley in the river, and it was not from their own efforts. As often fictionalised in books ( my own too!) a passer-by found her body and alerted the police. The family’s full statement on how they feel about the release of personal information:
“And it saddens us to think that one day we will have to explain to them that the press and members of the public accused their dad of wrongdoing, misquoted and vilified friends and family. This is absolutely appalling, they have to be held accountable, this cannot happen to another family.”
The family singled out ITV and Sky News for making contact with them directly on Sunday night after police confirmed a body had been found, adding they had asked for privacy.
“They again have taken it upon themselves to run stories about us to sell papers and increase their own profits,” the statement said. “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.”
It appears to me from hearing it live on the news last night, then reading it again online that they too feel that the media and police went a bit too far. I only hope that now that she has been found, the social media amateur sleuths, newspapers, and whoever else seemed to upset the family can allow them to have their peace, and Nicola to rest as they wish. In my view, yes, the police did go a bit too far releasing personal information on a woman’s experience with her menopause. They could have said she ‘had significant troubles with alcohol’ and left it at that if they really, really, had to release something… couldn’t they have?