Nicola Bulley's Fitbit gave a heart-rate output for eight days after she drowned


The Fitbit watch worn by mother-of-two Nicola Bulley kept giving out data about her heart-rate for up to eight days following her tragic death in a river, an inquest has been told.

It appears that she drowned in the cold January waters of the Wyre river in St Michael's, Lancashire — and there was no evidence that anyone else was involved in her death, a coronorer's court heard today.

Ms Bulley, who was 45, was reported missing after taking her dog for a walk along the banks of the river having earlier dropped off her daughters at school on Friday, January 27. Her smartphone, which was connected to a Teams call, was discovered on a bench overlooking the river. Her dog, Willow, was found wandering close by.

But it wasn't until more than three weeks later and a massive search by police and specialist rescue teams that her body was located in the river Wyre, around a mile from the bench, on February 19.

The Fitbit was still attached to her wrist and probably finally ran out of power on February 4. Investigators who were handed the device re-charged the battery and found no further data beyond that date.

Crucial data pertaining to January 27, the day she went missing, recorded her as taking 4,548 steps between 8am and 9:30am. No further steps were noted by the Fitbit after 9:30am.

During the first day of the inquest at County Hall, Preston, DC Keith Greenhalgh referred to information about the device continuing to give out data following the woman's death.

He told the coroner's court: “A possible explanation for Nicola’s Fitbit continuing to provide [heart rate] output sporadically until 4 February could be a result of the movement of water passing between the device and Nicola’s wrist. Testing on inanimate objects provided similar results when there was a movement in the water.”

DC Greenhalgh said he believed Ms Bulley fell into the water between 9.18am and 9.30am. Analysis of her iPhone and Fitbit data suggested she “very possibly” entered the water at 9.22am on January 27, he added.

Experts who have studied the process of drowning provided evidence to the inquest that the act of entering cold water could cause victims to "gasp" and "inhale water" and "drown within seconds".

Professor Michael Tipton, a world expert in drowning, said there would have been a "fairly rapid incapacitation" after Ms Bulley went into the river, where temperatures may have been as cold as 3C (37.4F). The hearing was told that it would have been just seconds before she began to lose consciousness.

Prof Tipton said he agreed with Alison Armour, a Home Office pathologist who conducted the post-mortem examination and concluded that Ms Bulley had drowned.

He said Ms Armour's finding of water in the stomach and lungs was consistent with a "gasp response" under water, with liquid rapidly entering the body's organs. He added it may have been just "20 to 30 seconds" before the woman lost consciousness.

Two breaths of water would have been a "lethal dose" for someone her size, Prof Tipton said.

Cold water expert Dr Patrick Morgan told the coroner's court: "On the occasion that the individual has taken that initial gasp on the surface of the water and then gone below, the duration would be 10 seconds that you could hold your breath and very likely one or two seconds at best."

Pc Matthew Thackray, a police underwater diver, said the area where Nicola was believed to have gone into the water had a steep slope. He said: "The river was 4C, so almost freezing, and if she fell in, the muscles would probably seize, making it difficult to swim properly."

Two witnesses who were in the area at the time Ms Bulley went missing said they had heard a scream, but not one that would have given cause for concern.

Helen O'Neill, a nurse, told the inquest: "I heard a scream, it's not an alarming noise, it was just over in a couple of seconds. There were no other sounds for me to be concerned about."

And Veronica Claesen said: "I was just about to get into the car and I heard a scream — a very short scream and my immediate thought was, 'Somebody is having a bit of fun at the back of the graveyard'."

Ms Bulley, a mortgage adviser originally from Chelmsford and living in Inskip, a small village in the Fylde area of Lancashire about two miles south of St Michael's on Wyre, was deemed a "high risk" missing person from the time she was reported missing. It sparked a huge hunt for her, making news headlines all over the country and beyond.

Paul Ansell, her partner, is due to give evidence to the inquest on Tuesday at County Hall, Preston.

Adblock test (Why?)