Nicola Bulley's family urge coroner to conclude she slipped and fell into the icy River Wyre and drowned

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A barrister representing her partner, parents and sister invited Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley to conclude the 45-year-old slipped and fell into the icy water of the River Wyre and drowned within a matter of seconds.

Nicola Bulley's family have urged a coroner to rule her death was an accident on the second day of the inquest in Preston.

A barrister representing her partner, parents and sister invited Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley to conclude the 45-year-old slipped and fell into the icy water of the River Wyre and drowned within a matter of seconds.

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Having heard evidence today that Nicola had previously suffered from anxiety and issues with both alcohol and the effects of the menopause, lawyer Sophie Cartwright suggested that they had not been a factor and "the only appropriate conclusion is one of accidental death."

She told Dr Adeley: "The family are clearly of the view that what occurred on the riverbank, perhaps some time shortly after 9:18am, was a tragic accident for Nicola."

She said the mother of two had been "in good spirits" on the morning of February 27 and her death could have occurred when she was trying to put a harness on her pet spaniel Willow near to the water's edge and had fallen in.

There has been much rumour and speculation relating to Nicola's death, particularly about the time it took before her body was found," she added. "But the family are very clearly of the view that the rumour and speculation is allayed completely when you look at the evidence."

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On evidence given by two people in the area that morning that they had heard screams, Ms Cartwright said: "The family submission is that, bearing in mind the timing and what was heard and where, you can dismiss these screams - they don't have relevance about how Nikki came by her death.

"The family are clearly of the view, having heard the evidence, that you can find, on the balance of probabilities, that Nicola Bulley's death was an accident."

Earlier Nicola's partner, sister, mother and father all gave evidence to the inquest about the events leading up to her disappearance. All four broke down in tears as they spoke of the "amazing" woman she was and how, despite a "blip" involving drinking excessively and suffering from the effects of the menopause, she had got over it and was back to the Nicola of before.

Her business as a mortgage broker was going well and she was excited about the future. She had been planning family things and there had not been any suggestion she was feeling suicidal or had any thoughts of harming herself.

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Her partner Paul Ansell told the coroner there had been a " blip" over the Christmas period, but by January "she was back to herself., looking forward to the future - everything was on the up."

He went on: "She was excited about work, it was going really well. She had worked so hard passing her exams. She spent most of last year to build business up and she was starting to see the rewards of that. She was so excited about how it was looking."

He said that Nicola had a busy day planned with work after dropping her daughters off at school and then walking her dog Willow who she treated like a third child. "Everything was in a good place," he said.

But when she didn't return home at her normal time that morning - between 9:45 and 10:15 he became "a little concerned." He tried calling her and sent her a message to ask: "Have you got lost?"

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Paul described her as "an incredible mum" and added: "It was her main focus, without a doubt. Her daughters were her absolute world." And he said there was nothing that morning when she left home that made him concerned.

"Everything was back to normal. She was well-respected by all her knew her. If you didn't know Nicola and met her everybody instantly loved her."

At one point during his evidence Paul broke down and needed a 10-minute break to recover.

Nicola's sister Louise Cunningham told the hearing that after the blip over Christmas she was "completely back to the normal Nikki." And she said: "She never, ever confided in me about any suicidal thoughts or anything like that."

The sisters had been planning a spa day at Ribby Hall near Kirkham and she sent Nicola a text confirming the booking that morning. She broke down as she said: "She never picked up the message."

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