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UK police find body in case that led to social media circus

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LONDON — Police searching for a woman who vanished three weeks ago in northwest England found a body in a river close to where she was last seen, the Lancashire Constabulary said Sunday. Formal identification of the body is pending.

The search for Nicola Bulley, 45, has riveted Britain since she went missing on Jan. 27 while walking her dog along the River Wyre. It also generated a circus of sorts in the tiny community of St Michael’s on Wyre as speculation on social media spurred unofficial searches and attracted amateur sleuths.

Would-be rescuers broke into derelict buildings despite police assurances that exhaustive searches were taking place. Some launched nighttime patrols, challenging locals who came face-to-face with strangers rattling their gates and prowling through their front gardens.

Confidence in the police plummeted amid criticism that police had botched the search for Bulley, a mortgage adviser who was last seen shortly after taking her daughters, ages 6 and 9, to school on a Friday morning.

The Lancashire police department, which dedicated 40 detectives to the investigation, came under increasing criticism the longer the case went unsolved.

In an apparent effort to respond, the force said Bulley was classified as a “high-risk” missing person “based on a number of specific vulnerabilities.” It later revealed she had struggled with alcohol and perimenopause before she vanished.

The disclosure prompted a further backlash, with senior members of the government, opposition leaders and victims rights advocates decrying the release of such personal information.

The police department said Friday that it would conduct an internal review of the investigation. The department has also referred itself to Britain’s independent police watchdog over a contact officers had with Bulley before her disappearance.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.