Nicola Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell has told Sky News of his “agony” after police searching for the mother-of-two recovered an unidentified body from the river near to where she went missing.
In a message sent to Sky News correspondent Inzamam Rashid, who has been in contact with the family throughout the three-week search, Mr Ansell said: “No words right now, just agony.”
“We’re all together, we have to be strong”, he added.
The body was found around a mile from where Ms Bulley was last seen walking her dog, beside the River Wyre, in St Michael’s on Wyre, after she dropped her daughters at school on 27 January.
It is understood that a man and a woman walking their dog near to the river called the police to report seeing a person in the water, with officers then launching a search.
Lancashire Constabulary said a formal identification of the body is yet to be carried out, but the 45-year-old’s family have been informed.
In a statement, the force said: “We were called today at 11.36am to reports of a body in the River Wyre, close to Rawcliffe Road.
“An underwater search team and specialist officers have subsequently attended the scene, entered the water and have sadly recovered a body.
“No formal identification has yet been carried out, so we are unable to say whether this is Nicola Bulley at this time.
“Procedures to identify the body are ongoing. We are currently treating the death as unexplained.
“Nicola’s family have been informed of developments and our thoughts are with them at this most difficult of times. We ask that their privacy is respected.”
Earlier, a road was cordoned off along the river close to St Michael’s on Wyre, as was a footpath.
The search site was about a mile from where Ms Bulley was last spotted.
A police helicopter hovered above the area for about 25 minutes and a drone was used as well.
Nicola Bulley timeline: How the search has unfolded
A white forensic tent was also erected in the area, while there was a significant police presence at the scene.
The senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith, was among them.
The area has been the focus of an intensive search operation since Ms Bulley was last seen at about 9.10am on 27 January while walking her dog, Willow.
The springer spaniel was found shortly after, along with her mobile phone, which was discovered on a bench beside a steep riverbank.
The phone was still connected to a work conference call.
Rishi Sunak ‘concerned’ over private information shared in case
Remarks criticising Nicola Bulley detective’s dress condemned
Officers have said their main working hypothesis is that the mother-of-two fell into the river, but her friends and family previously claimed there was “no evidence whatsoever” to support that theory.
Concerns have been expressed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the release of personal information about Ms Bulley during the police investigation into her disappearance.
Police had earlier said Ms Bulley, who worked as a mortgage advisor, had suffered “significant issues with alcohol” which had been brought on by “ongoing struggles with the menopause”.
But Ms Bulley’s family said they were “aware beforehand that Lancashire Police released a statement with some personal details about our Nikki”.
They said: “Although we know that Nikki would not have wanted this, there are people out there speculating and threatening to sell stories about her. This is appalling and needs to stop.
“The public focus has to be on finding her and not making up wild theories about her personal life.”
Lancashire Police have confirmed that a date has been set for an internal review of the investigation.
Andrew Snowden, Lancashire’s police and crime commissioner, said officers were being “as transparent as they can be” in what is an “incredibly sensitive and complex case”.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who also raised concerns about the release of the information, on Sunday described the discovery of a body as a “heartbreaking and distressing development”.
In a post on Twitter, the minister wrote: “My thoughts remain with Nicola’s family at this extremely difficult time.”
The case has attracted massive public interest, especially from amateur sleuths and social media video-makers, who have been coming up with their own theories for Ms Bulley’s disappearance.
Police have said these people and their actions have “distracted significantly” from the official investigation.
At the time, senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith said: “In 29 years’ police service I’ve never seen anything like it.
“Some of it has been quite shocking and really hurtful to the family.”