NICOLA Bulley is an everywoman. She went missing during the most mundane, quotidian of activities – walking the dog.
That she may have slipped on a riverbank, trying to deal with what police called an “issue” with springer spaniel Willow, is something that resonates with every one of the 13million dog owners in the UK.
7Nicola’s 11-day disappearance has thus far proven beyond the capability of Lancashire policeCredit: Lancashire Police7Nicola Bulley and her partner Paul AnsellHow many of us have sighed wearily, pulled up our jeans while cursing the dog, and waded knee-deep into some rat-infested muddy water to retrieve a pet or a disgusting, slobbery, seven-month-old tennis ball?
As dog owners, it’s what we do. Us slave, them master.
Nicola could be any of us; any of us could be her. We do it because we love these ridiculous, fluffy, fox poo-rolling creatures unconditionally. Their needs, very often, come before our own.
Nicola, therefore, represents every single besotted dog owner in existence.
Reports that Willow was found “bone-dry and distressed” is yet another heartbreaking piece of the puzzle. Never has the old saying “if dogs could talk” been more poignant.
How confused and lost poor Willow must feel, desperate to communicate what she knows.
Nicola’s selfies with beautiful Willow are universal, a grinning, panting canine in the hinterland, two feet behind a bloody ball.
Perhaps not since the tragic case of Sarah Everard, in March 2021, has a nation been so immersed in a national news story.
At a time of so much national misery, our collective hearts are bleeding for Nicola’s family — her two young daughters and partner Paul Ansell.
No amount of energy crises, strikes or inflation can detract from our united empathy. We pray that, unlike Sarah, there’s a happy ending.
Of course, Nicola’s 11-day disappearance has thus far proven beyond the capability of Lancashire police.
In a press conference on Friday, Supt Sally Riley said: “Our main working hypothesis is that Nicola has sadly fallen into the river, there is no third-party or criminal involvement and this is not suspicious but the tragic case of a missing person. This is particularly important because speculation otherwise can be really distressing for the family and for Nicola’s children.”
The police seem wilfully unaware that a “hypothesis” is just that — speculation.
Martyn Underhill, a former detective and senior officer in the probe of the murder of Sarah Payne, described the police’s decision to air its river theory as “extremely unusual and concerning”.
He added: “If the public is told that they think it’s a terrible accident, it risks people switching off. It can deter someone coming forward with crucial evidence.
“Coming out with such a definitive narrative publicly will make it hard to row back if the circumstances change. And they’ve offended the family and friends at the same time. It is really bizarre.”
While police, HM Coastguard, mountain rescue and Lancashire fire and rescue service all scour the river, officers have been analysing Nicola’s phone and rooting through CCTV.
Door-to-door knocks have been made. Public pleas for help have been made. Still nothing. Our confidence in the police has never, ever been lower.
7At a time of so much national misery, our collective hearts are bleeding for Nicola’s familyCredit: instagramIn the wake of Wayne Couzens, who raped and killed Sarah Everard, and rapist David Carrick, plus the emergence of a general culture of gross misogyny, policemen are no longer the kindly, benign figures we thought as children.
Alongside a general apathy when it comes to basic policing — prioritising Twitter clampdowns over catching burglars or taking the knee over solving crimes — now, more than ever, we need the Force to come good.
Yet you get the sense this one really matters to them, though. They are reading the dog-loving room and doing all they can to find Nicola.
Let’s pray they succeed and restore at least one iota of our lost faith.
Smooth that girl . . . here’s a warning kids
7Madonna was unrecognisable at last night’s Grammy AwardsCredit: Rex7Madonna pictured in 1986Credit: RexMADONNA’S face. Wow.
There’s just So. Much. To. Unpack here. Is it the over-plucked Nineties ’brows?
The trout pout that is an insult to river-dwelling trouts everywhere?
The puffy cheeks that can’t be down to weight gain as she still has the body fat of a whippet?
Or the porcelain-smooth forehead that has less movement than Putney Bridge at rush hour?
I mean, good for Madge for expressing herself (in as much as any expression whatsoever is possible).
But kids, seriously, stay away from Harley Street.
A RICH SOURCE OF FUN
RICHARD MADELEY accidentally called non-binary Sam Smith a “he” last week.
Like an exhausted mum scolding her over-excited toddler, Good Morning Britain co-host Susanna Reid promptly corrected him.
When the ever-brilliant Susanna isn’t perma eye-rolling at her errant co-star, she’s making mincemeat of obfuscating MPs.
These two are rapidly becoming essential breakfast telly viewing.
WIN FOR OLDER WOMEN
IMAGINE being one of the four other actresses up against Sarah Lancashire at next year’s TV Baftas.
Poor souls may as well get their Deliveroo order in now and plan a nice night in front of t’ telly.
7Sarah Lancashire provided a one-woman masterclass in acting during Happy Valley’s finaleCredit: BBCBecause that gong’s going nowhere but Ms Lancashire’s downstairs loo.
The Happy Valley star provided a one-woman masterclass in acting – every emotion in the emotional gamut displayed – during Sunday night’s finale.
Written by Sally Wainwright, I cannot remember a more perfect 70 minutes of television.
The runaway success of this BBC1 smash should also serve as a reminder to commissioning editors that we need – and, crucially, want – more shows with strong, flawed-but-eminently-likeable 50-plus protagonists.
Middle-aged women are no longer invisible. Let’s hope this marks a televisual tide change.
I’LL SAY ‘SEE YA’ MY WAY
A NEW poll shows Frank Sinatra’s My Way is the UK’s most popular funeral song.
Astonishingly, only 0.3 per cent of the population know their loved one’s funereal song wishes.
Now, call me a massive raging narcissist, but my best friends have been given VERY STRICT INSTRUCTIONS ahead of my big day.
As I’m wheeled down the aisle, open casket (full, smoky-eyed make-up) I want Elton John’s I’m Still Standing blasting.
And as the curtain closes around my (perfect, evenly fake-tanned) corpse, out will boom Green Day’s Good Riddance.
A photo montage of all my best bits (filtered, airbrushed, very selective) will play throughout the service, as mourners wail loud enough to be heard from Machu Picchu.
One of my best mates has beaten me in the song selection stakes, requesting the Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil.
Which, if you knew her, you’d know was fitting.
RESCUE NHS IN UNITY
FOR the first time, ambulance workers and nurses downed tools in tandem.
The NHS is at breaking point.
7Now is the time for some cross-party unity to bring back the NHS from breaking pointCredit: RexToo many chiefs. Too much red tape. Too little common sense.The clue is in the name. This is a national crisis and, as such, surely now is the time for some cross-party unity.
After all, the NHS originally came to fruition as a result of the 1942 Beveridge report, a Tory and Labour-supported blueprint.
The Conservatives can’t keep harping on about their “world-beating jab roll-out” as a get-out-of-jail-free card for the rest of all time.
And Labour can’t keep promising the Earth with little in the way of back-up.
They need to go back to the beginning and start again. As one.
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk