Nicola Bulley‘s inquest cost Lancashire County Council thousands of pounds in security with officials forced to act in case “armchair detectives” and TikTok influencers caused havoc.
Social media ghouls had spread sick conspiracy theories online after Ms Bulley went missing while walking her dog along the River Wyre in Lancashire after dropping her daughters off at school on January 27.
A huge search was launched by Lancashire Police with officers and specialist dive squads scouring the river for signs of the missing mortgage broker.
Online trolls, conspiracy theorists and armchair detectives spread fake stories on social media at the time of the search, ignoring police warnings and a plea from Ms Bulley’s family not to indulge in spreading rumours about their loved one, whose body was found in the river on February 19.
At the start of an inquest into Ms Bulley’s death at County Hall in Preston, Lancashire’s Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley issued a stern warning.
He said: “If anybody has the slightest inclination or is contemplating disrupting this inquest they should be aware this may amount to contempt of court.”
On the first day of the inquest, mounted police officers patrolled the streets around the venue, road closures were put in place to allow parking for TV crews and barriers were raised outside the main entrance. The private security firm FGH manned the doors of the building and rooms inside.
Lancashire County Council had to fork out a total of £11,049 to hold the inquest at County Hall with more than £4,000 spent on security alone, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by Lancs Live.
It shows £4,114.80 was spent on FGH security staffing while sundries such as bags, tags, lanyards, badges and barrier hire cost £378.72.
An Auditel, video-conferencing engineer cost £1,600, catering totalled £331.18 and the relocation of previously booked events and meetings resulted in a £3,675 cost.
Traffic management set the local authority back £950, though extra police patrols did not incur a cost, according to the FOI.
Despite the coroner concluding Ms Bulley died from drowning and her death was nothing more than a tragic accident, her family has said they have still been tormented by social media abuse.
They said in a statement read by their lawyer: “Sadly, we feel the need to raise and address the issue of social media. It’s upsetting that we continue to receive negative targeted messages and still wildly inaccurate speculation being shared on numerous platforms.
“We encourage people to look at the facts, the evidence which had been heard during the inquest, and the conclusion reached by the coroner, to ignore any amateur views and opinions and be mindful of the impact that words bring.”