Watch: Body found in river is missing mother Nicola Bulley, say police
The family of Nicola Bulley have criticised Sky and ITV over their coverage of her disappearance, accusing them of a "shameful" invasion of their privacy.
In a press conference on Monday, police confirmed the body discovered less than a mile from where Bulley disappeared has been identified as the missing dog walker.
In a statement delivered by detective chief superintendent Pauline Stables, Bulley's family said they "will never be able to comprehend what Nikki had gone through in her last moments".
The family hit out at the media and members of the public for making "appalling" claims of wrongdoing by Bulley's partner, and for "misquoting and vilifying" her friends and family.
They said: "We tried last night to take in what we have been told in the day, only to have Sky News and ITV making contact with us directly when we expressly asked for privacy.
"They again have taken it upon themselves to run stories about us to sell papers and increase their own profits.
"It's shameful they have acted in this way. Leave us alone now."
In their statement, Bulley's family said: “We will never forget Nikki, how could we, she was the centre of our world, she was the one who made our lives so special and nothing will cast a shadow over that.
“Our girls will get the support they need from the people who love them the most.
“It saddens us to think that one day we will have to explain to them that the press and members of the public accused their dad of wrongdoing, misquoted and vilified friends and family.
“This is absolutely appalling, they have to be held accountable. This cannot happen to another family.
“Do the press and other media channels and so-called professionals not know when to stop? These are our lives and our children’s lives.
“Finally, Nikki, you are no longer a missing person, you have been found, we can let you rest now.
“We love you, always have and always will, we’ll take it from here.”
Questions remain about why it took more than three weeks for her body to be discovered.
Lancashire Police have not disclosed why it took 23 days to find her body in the river.
Prior to the family's statement, Lancashire Police assistant chief constable Peter Lawson said: “Sadly, we are now able to confirm that yesterday we recovered Nicola Bulley from the River Wyre.
“Nicola’s family have been informed and are of course devastated. Our thoughts are with them at this time as well as with all her loved ones and the wider community."
Bulley's body was discovered by dog walkers in the area on Sunday morning. Police attended the scene and recovered a body from the reeds in the River Wyre.
Latest news on the Nicola Bulley case
Nicola Bulley blame game as search expert insists body location 'not in our remit' (The Telegraph, 4-min read)
Nicola Bulley dive expert defends river search equipment that 'doesn't work on reeds' (Yahoo News UK, 4-min read)
Nicola Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell ‘in agony’ after a body was found in river (Lancashire Telegraph, 3-min read)
Authorities had focused on the theory that Bulley went into the river on the morning of her disappearance, and three weeks into the investigation revealed Bulley had "significant issues with alcohol" and "ongoing struggles with the menopause".
Their decision to share such intimate details of Bulley's life, with seemingly little significance to the case, was widely condemned by campaigners and MPs, including home secretary Suella Braverman.
Sharing her "deepest thoughts and sympathies" for Bulley's family on Monday, Braverman added: "I did have concerns earlier in the week about some of the elements relating to the release of personal information of Nicola Bulley into the public domain.
"I raised those concerns with the chief constable - I wasn't wholly satisfied, I have to say, with some of the responses I got but it is a matter for the police themselves."
The police watchdog has since made contact with Lancashire Constabulary, which also announced an internal investigation into the case.
The unusual decision to share Bulley's struggles with alcohol was also questioned by expert diver Peter Faulding, who was involved in an extensive search of the river close to where Bulley's phone was found.
Faulding said his team would have searched differently if police had disclosed an issue with alcohol, and has been forced to defend his work since Bulley's body was discovered.
"Sadly, the discovery was not found in the river but in the reeds at the side of the river which was not part of our remit as the side scab sonar does not penetrate reeds above or below the water."
He also suggested in an interview with ITV's Good Morning Britain that he had been scapegoated amid the controversial search, and was not prepared to be the "fall guy".
"I believed she walked off somewhere and went into the river in some other way. There's been much speculation around this... there's always a fall guy and obviously I'm the one who's taking the fall for this, but I hand on heart, went to visit the family to help."
Watch: Home secretary awaits result of police review of handling of Nicola Bulley case