JANET STREET-PORTER: How dare police reveal intimate details of Nicola Bulley’s private life. This crass victim-shaming plays straight into the hands of TikTok sleuths but does nothing to ease the pain of her poor family
Women’s groups are rightly upset – and I’m furious – that once again insensitive police officers have chosen to reveal intimate personal information about a missing woman in order to divert attention from their lack of success.
Yesterday, officers leading the enquiry into the disappearance of Nicola Bulley – who vanished on January 27th – held a most unusual press conference in which they revealed that, from the outset, Nicola had been classified as high risk because of ‘vulnerabilities’ they were told about by her partner shortly after she vanished.
They did not elaborate what these ‘vulnerabilities’ were and – having dropped a bombshell – Detective Superintendent ‘Becky’ Smith then asked us to respect the family’s privacy.
The extraordinary statement that Nicola was ‘vulnerable’ in some unspecified way was not only clumsy and intrusive, but even worse it inevitably led to even more questions from the press and the public.
The extraordinary statement that Nicola was ‘vulnerable’ in some unspecified way was not only clumsy and intrusive, but even worse it inevitably led to even more questions from the press and the public
Yesterday, officers leading the enquiry into the disappearance of Nicola Bulley – who vanished on January 27th – held a most unusual press conference in which they revealed that, from the outset
In response, an astonishing statement was later issued by Lancashire police, for ‘clarification’.
In it, they revealed that Nicola had ‘significant issues with alcohol…..which were brought on by her ongoing struggle with the menopause’ and that ‘these had resurfaced in recent months’ They also revealed that on January 10, officers did a welfare check at her home, and no one had been arrested and that the incident is being investigated.
At this point, having listened to all the evidence supplied by the police in their detailed briefing yesterday, you might decide there is absolutely no indication that Nicola was under the influence of alcohol or upset or in any way distressed on the day of her disappearance. So why were we told she was ‘vulnerable’ at all?
By deciding to adopt this outrageous tactic, Lancashire police have made matters far worse for Nicola’s family. Far from eliminating false rumours and speculation, the police have manage to provide all the amateur detectives and TikTok sleuths they spent their press conference moaning about with a load of new material. Material that will be twisted and manipulated by influencers and amateur journalists in order to titilate their moronic followers.
Because the Lancashire police seem unable to cope with being criticised and being the focus of public attention, Nicola’s reputation and her right to privacy have been sacrificed. To achieve what?
JANET STREET-PORTER: We have no evidence whatsoever that Nicola’s state of mind might lead her to take her own life
We have no evidence whatsoever that Nicola’s state of mind might lead her to take her own life, something, which Detective Becky Smith seemed to toss into her melting pot of ‘hypotheses’ by revealing that the missing woman was ‘vulnerable’.
Nicola spoke to other dog walkers that morning. She talked to people at the school. She texted a friend about a play date. She participated in an office meeting.
On March 18th 2009, Claudia vanished on her way to work in York after leaving home at 5am and has never been seen since. We don’t know if she’s dead or alive. Living in the UK under another identity or working abroad.
She has vanished into thin air.
For weeks, months, and then years, dozens of detectives combed through the private life of the attractive 35 year old chef, and when they failed to come up with any reason why she might have disappeared off the face of the earth, started drip feeding stories about her ‘complex relationships with men’ to the media. Faced with criticism about their lack of progress, the police turned attention back onto the victim, implying that Claudia Lawrence was a bit of a slag. That her sociable lifestyle might be a reason for her disappearance or death. That she was down at the pub every night. Blah blah blah.
Detective Ray Galloway described Claudia’s lifestyle as ‘complex and mysterious’. In fact, she dated different men at the same time and most of them didn’t know about each other. In other words, she was a modern woman who seemed to enjoy and active sex life.
I don’t believe that’s a criminal offence. (Yet).
As for the menopause and alcohol being somehow contributory factors in the disappearance of Nicola Bulley, one can’t help feeling that revealing these intimate details demeans the missing woman and (in years to come) will be something her family and her young daughters will deeply resent.
And why did Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith feel the need to put on a sleeveless black cocktail frock to host a press conference? Given the seriousness of the occasion, would it not have been more appropriate to wear a dark suit, a blouse, clothing which signalled restraint and seriousness? This wasn’t an episode of the Fall. Watching Ms Smith go through her theories and list the work completed so far, I felt the line between policing and entertainment was being crossed again: the whole event seemed like a shabby exercise in self-justification. And now the self-appointed other ‘expert’ in this case, Peter Faulding, is blathering away to anyone who will listen, saying he was never told ‘the facts’ about Nicola’s ‘issues’ by the police and – if he had known them – he would have looked elsewhere.
The whole investigation is fast becoming a circus.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is right to demand an explanation from Lancashire’s Chief police officer about their highly controversial strategy of victim-shaming.
When a woman goes missing, we don’t need to hear about her menstrual cycle or the number of units she’s consumed before tea time. Or, as in the Claudia Lawrence case, the names of the men she might have spent the night with.
Your job, Detective Superintendent Becky, is to get Nicola back, not offer up random ‘reasons’ for her disappearance you can’t prove or justify.
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