Nicola Bulley’s personal information should not have been disclosed a review into the police’s handling of the case has concluded.
Lancashire Police’s decision to make the private information public was deemed to have been “avoidable and unnecessary”.
The 143-page report issued stinging criticism at senior officers involved int he case, accusing them of insufficient focus” and errors of judgment.
It also said the force’s chief officers “observed but did not act” and had failed to show sufficient support to lower ranks.
WATCH: Police react to damning findings
Details of Bulley’s struggles with the menopause were disclosed by police after bungled handling of questions over whether any medical factors were at play.
Bulley’s disappearance at the end of January this year sparked a media frenzy, with intense interest on the police case across the UK.
Officers were also left struggling to deal with viral social media conspiracy theories with TikTok videos including a hashtag of her name reaching 270 million views.
Lancashire Police press office logged more than 500 media calls and 75,000 inbound social media comments on the case in about one month.
Nicola Bulley’s struggles with the menopause were outlined by the police
A review of the investigation led by the College of Policing found that as levels of public confidence in the force were falling, the case should have been declared a critical incident, due to the effect of public confidence in the police, with greater focus on the media and earlier use of family liaison officers.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh, who leads the College of Policing, said: “Throughout our work we have had Nicola’s family and friends in our thoughts.
“The purpose of the review was not to attribute blame but identify areas of learning for the constabulary and wider policing.
“The decision to not call the investigation a critical incident, despite it meeting the national definition, set the tone within the constabulary and led to several challenges.
“The most notable of these was the way the constabulary released personal information about Nicola which was avoidable and unnecessary.
“While we have not shied away from criticism, there are also many areas of Lancashire Constabulary’s response that should be commended, including an exemplary investigation and a well-conducted search.
“At the heart of the investigation was Nicola. I am left in no doubt that she and her family were foremost in the minds of officers and staff throughout the search.”
Bulley’s body was found in the River Wyre on February 19, 23 days after she first wen missing while walking her dog in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.