The home secretary has demanded an “explanation” from police over the decision to reveal details of Nicola Bulley’s private life.
A source close to Suella Braverman said she was “concerned” by the disclosure of the missing mother-of-two’s personal information by Lancashire Police, including that she suffered “some significant issues with alcohol”, which had resurfaced over recent months.
The Home Office said it was receiving regular updates from the force – and received an explanation on Thursday for “why personal details about Nicola were briefed out at this stage of the investigation”.
Lancashire Police has also referred itself to the relevant watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, over contact officers had with the 45-year-old prior to her disappearance on 27 January.
Friday marks three weeks since she vanished while taking her dog for a walk by the River Wyre in Lancashire.
Family’s plea to end ‘appalling’ speculation
The home secretary’s intervention comes after Ms Bulley’s relatives asked the public to end the “appalling” levels of speculation and “rumours” about her private life.
They also spoke about the “significant” side effects she faced from perimenopause.
In a statement by the family, published through the force, they made clear the police “know the truth about Nikki”.
They said Ms Bulley suffered from brain fog and restless sleep and stopped taking hormone replacement drugs, commonly used to treat symptoms of the menopause, as it gave her “intense headaches”.
WHAT IMPACT CAN MENOPAUSE HAVE?
Menopause is when your periods stop due to lower hormone levels and usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55.
Perimenopause is when you have symptoms before your periods have stopped, according to the NHS.
Perimenopause can last for up to 10 years before your periods stop altogether and most commonly occurs in women in their 40s.
The NHS says menopause and perimenopause symptoms can have a big impact on a person’s life, including their relationships and work.
Common symptoms include: anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flashes, difficulty sleeping and headaches and migraines, among others.
Whilst not all women will experience menopausal symptoms, up to 80-90% will have some symptoms, with 25% describing them as severe and debilitating, according to the British Menopause Society.
Symptoms of menopause can be so debilitating that a survey published last year found that one in 10 women have quit their job because of it.
HRT is a method of managing symptoms of perimenopause and menopause and is taken by millions of women worldwide, however it does not work well for everybody.
It involves taking oestrogen to elevate the body’s levels of the hormone and is often combined with progesterone.
Initially, the force refused to elaborate on “vulnerabilities” which made Ms Bulley a high risk missing person, but later released a statement about her medical and mental health issues.
It also reported a response car staffed by police and health workers “attended a report of concern for welfare” at her home on 10 January.
Timeline – what were Nicola Bulley’s last movements?
Community ‘in shock’ over dog walker’s disappearance
How local knowledge could help despite ‘toxic’ interest
Having come under criticism for revealing the details, Conservative police and crime commissioner for Lancashire, Andrew Snowden, said the force were being “as transparent as they can be”.
Officers acknowledged it was an unusual move to divulge such personal information about a missing person, but said they wanted to explain what they meant by “vulnerabilities”.
Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts
Ms Bulley’s family said public focus “must be on finding her” and not “making up wild theories about her personal life”, before issuing a direct plea to her to return.
“Your girls want a cuddle,” they said.