Nicola Bulley: No evidence of foul play in mother-of-two's death inquest told

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A Home Office pathologist has ruled out foul play in the tragic death of mother-of-two Nicola Bulley.

A Home Office pathologist has ruled out foul play in the tragic death of mother-of-two Nicola Bulley.

And Dr Alison Armour told the opening day of an inquest in Preston that the 45-year-old drowned in the River Wyre on the morning she disappeared while walking her dog.

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Dr Armour, based at the Royal Preston Hospital, said there were no injuries to suggest Nicola had been assaulted or there had been any third party involvement which could have contributed to her falling into the water.

She said there were no signs of strangulation and no evidence of trauma to the neck, skull or brain.

There was also no trace of her having drunk any alcohol. The official cause of death was drowning.Nicola vanished while walking her pet spaniel Willow on the banks of the Wyre after dropping off her two daughters at school in the village.

Despite a huge search by the emergency services her body was not found for more than three weeks.

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A police diver who searched the river on the day of her disappearance said the riverbank near to where her mobile phone and dog were found was steep and had anyone fallen in they would have struggled to get out.

PC Matthew Thackray showed images and video to the court from the scene, taken in April when the police were asked to return to the area by Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley.

He said the water level on the day Nicola died would have been higher than when he filmed the river.He said he had jumped into the river from the vertical banking and had found it almost impossible to climb back out without the help of two colleagues with ropes.

"It was very difficult to get out at that point," he told the inquest. "There is nothing to grab hold of to pull yourself out."He said that with water temperature on that icy January day was just 3.6C. Cold water shock would have taken effect almost immediately, leaving Nicola unable to recover."It would probably have taken effect straight away," he said. "It causes your muscles to seize up and you can't swim."

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The inquest heard from two experts in cold water immersion, research in which Britain leads the rest of the world.

Professor Michael Tipton, of the University of Portsmouth, revealed that the effects on Nicola could have been almost instantaneous.

He said her natural reaction would be to gasp and, in his opinion, Nicola would have aspirated water into her lungs and could have been rendered unconscious very quickly.

"It could have taken less than 30 seconds from entering the water to being able to have any effective level of consciousness,"And Dr Patrick Morgan, an authority on drowning, added that she would have had only a matter of seconds before she passed out.

"If Nicola fell into the water at that point there is a very good chance the initial gasp would have occurred under the water," he said.


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