Nicola Bulley: Fitbit gave heart rate reading for 8 days after mum-of-two drowned, inquest hears

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An inquest into Nicola Bulley’s death is being held in Preston this week and will seek to tackle mysteries surrounding the mum-of-two’s tragic death.

Nicola Bulley’s Fitbit gave a heart rate reading for eight days after the mum-of-two drowned, an inquest into her death has heard. The 45-year-old vanished as she went on her usual dog walk in the village of St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire on January 7, after dropping her daughters off at school.

Ms Bulley’s body was found in undergrowth in the river, about a mile away from where she went missing, more than three weeks later following a huge police search. The case sparked mass public interest, with dozens of content creators and so-called “private detectives” descending on the scene.

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An inquest into her death is being held at Preston County Hall this week and is expected to conclude this afternoon (Tuesday, July 27). The inquest will seek to tackle mysteries around Ms Bulley’s death, including why her Fitbit recorded a heart rate for eight days after she was believed to have drowned on January 27.

Ms Bulley’s body was found with her Fitbit still attached to her wrist. The device is believed to have lost power on February 4 as no further data had been obtained beyond that point.

When the Fitbit was was placed on charge, it displayed February 4. The Fitbit recorded 4,548 steps between 8am and 9:30am on January 27 but after 9.30pm, no further steps were recorded.

DC Keith Greenhalgh told the first day of the hearing on Monday (June 26): “A possible explanation for Nicola’s Fitbit continuing to provide [heart rate] output sporadically until February 4 could be a result of the movement of water passing between the device and Nicola’s wrist.

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“Testing on inanimate objects provided similar results when there was a movement in the water.”

Nicola BulleyNicola Bulley
Nicola Bulley | National World

Two witnesses also told the inquest they heard a scream coming from the area of the River Wyre where Ms Bulley was last seen on the day she disappeared. However, there is “no evidence” anyone else was involved in her death.

Ms Bulley’s family believe her death was accidental. Their solicitor Sophie Cartwright KC told the inquest: “What happened on the river bank shortly after 9.18am was a tragic accident. There has been much rumour and suspicion and speculation around Nikki’s death but the family are very clearly of the view and submit to you that that rumour and speculation is allayed completely when looking at all the evidence.”

She added the family believed “Nikki’s death would have occurred very shortly after she entered the water”. Professor Michael Tipton, a world expert in drowning, said there would have been a “fairly rapid incapacitation” after Ms Bulley entered the river, which could have been as cold as 3C.

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Professor Tipton said he agreed with Home Office pathologist Alison Armour, who conducted a post-mortem examination before concluding that Ms Bulley drowned. He added that Ms Armour’s finding of water in the stomach and lungs is consistent with a “gasp response” under water, with liquid entering the body’s organs.

The inquest continues.

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