Sick internet trolls are believed to have hacked into a social media account of missing Nicola Bulley’s traumatised partner Paul Ansell and posted sexually explicit pictures of women.
A number of photographs were yesterday posted on the engineer’s Pinterest account, including models in lingerie – some topless – and images of an actress in a bikini.
The update sparked concern from users of the site and some speculated it had been hacked. After being alerted to the posts by the Sunday Express, Lancashire Police confirmed his account was hacked and an investigation was underway.
A force spokeswoman said: “Paul Ansell’s Pinterest account has been accessed by a third party and is being closed down. We are investigating the matter.”
The account was later disabled.
Yesterday, TikTok sleuths also sparked outrage after uploading video of themselves digging up ground in woodland near to where Nicola vanished, despite repeated calls from police for such activity to stop.
Heartbroken Paul, 44, has already been forced to hit back at online abuse he has received.
As part of the Channel 5 programme Vanished: Where is Nicola Bulley? he was asked how he felt about accusations levelled against him from trolls. He said “it would be upsetting” but only “if I let myself read it all”.
He continued: “I have seen some stuff. Most people have been amazing, you’re always going to get that two per cent of people that for whatever reason say and do not very nice things but I don’t want to give any energy to that.” Emma White, a friend of Nicola’s, said some people on social media have made “hurtful comments”.
The police search for Nicola entered its fourth week yesterday.
She vanished while walking the couple’s dog on the bank of the River Wyre after dropping her daughters, aged six and nine, at school in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.
She was last seen at 9.10am on January 27 taking her usual route with her springer spaniel Willow before her mobile phone was found on a bench near the water around 20 minutes later. Police are still working on a main hypothesis that she entered the water close to where her phone was found.
Volunteer group Specialist Search Dogs posted on Facebook yesterday that on Wednesday it was “contacted by Lancashire Police to assist a high-profile search operation for a missing person”, sending out two teams. However, the force has hinted the huge search operation could soon have to be scaled back or called off.
The force has 40 detectives and dozens of specialist searchers on the case. Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson said: “I retain all hope, but the reality is there will be a point at which I need to review… the extent and proportionality of continuing to deploy significant search resources around the river and land-based options we have.”
Police also said they had approached Fitbit to try to obtain data from Nicola’s watch but had exhausted all enquiries in relation to it and no data to show her activities after she vanished had been obtained.
The force has come under fire over its investigation after last Wednesday it said she was a high-risk missing person from the outset due to a number of vulnerabilities, which it would not go into for privacy reasons. Later that day it confirmed she had issues with alcohol due to problems with the menopause, drawing criticism from several quarters, including Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
It also emerged police attended her address in Inskip on January 10 due to a report of concern for welfare.
Former police officers have mixed views on the force’s handling of the case. Ex-Met detective Peter Bleksley said: “Police should have sealed off the scene for a full forensic search once her phone was found. If she hasn’t gone in the water, they will have lost that opportunity forever.”
But former Met detective Dave McKelvey said: “We should not dissect the police investigation while it’s live as we don’t know what they do or don’t know.”