Journalist sparks backlash over 'shameful' comments about Nicola Bulley detective

Columnist Amanda Platell was denounced after she criticised Det Supt Rebecca Smith for wearing a "skin tight dress" and "stilettos".

Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith of Lancashire Police updates the media in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, as police continue their search for Nicola Bulley, 45, who vanished on January 27 while walking her springer spaniel Willow shortly after dropping her daughters, aged six and nine, at school. Picture date: Wednesday February 15, 2023. (Photo by Peter Powell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith updates the media on the search for Nicola Bulley. (Getty)

A journalist has sparked a backlash after making comments about the appearance of the detective leading the Nicola Bulley investigation.

Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell was denounced after she criticised Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith for wearing a "skin tight dress" and "stilettos" during a press conference on Wednesday.

Chief Constable of Gwent Police, Pam Kelly, said she was “saddened” the journalist was “judging and blaming women in senior police roles”, with Baroness Hussein-Ece adding “shame on this ‘journalist’”.

Det Supt Smith is leading the investigation into the disappearance of 45-year-old Bulley who vanished on 27 January in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire.

On Thursday, Platell tweeted a picture of the police chief with the caption: “Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith at press conference yesterday - skin tight navy dress, stilettos, poker straightened hair - whatever happened to a cop uniform! Or is she auditioning for Love Island for midlifers. Show some respect for a missing mother!"

Responding to the comment, CC Kelly wrote: “Saddened to see this..there is a lady missing and her family and wider community are desperate to find her...and here we are again..constantly judging and blaming women in senior police roles....we really need a kinder society...for now and the future.”

Baroness Hussein-Ece agreed with the police chief, saying she was “sick of seeing woman judged by their appearance, at a time when violence against women is shockingly high.”

Homicide specialist Prof Jane Monckton Smith wrote the last thing on Det Supt Smith’s mind would be what Platell thought about her dress.

Welsh Labour politician Joyce Watson described the comments as “really disappointing”.

Head of UK Terrorism Police, Matt Jukes added: "Well said @GP_CCKelly & others calling out this nonsense. Unwarranted & levelled at a professional facing an enormous challenge, striving to bring a family news".

Friday marked the three-week anniversary of mother-of-two Bulley’s disappearance.

The police search for the missing 45-year-old comes amid a growing political storm over Lancashire Police’s decision to share intimate details about the high-risk status of Bulley.

Watch: Remarks criticising Nicola Bulley detective's 'skin tight dress' condemned

Nicola Bulley was last seen on a riverside dog walk in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, on 27 January. (SWNS)
Nicola Bulley was last seen on a riverside dog walk in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, on 27 January. (SWNS)

Read more: Nicola Bulley: What is a high-risk missing person?

The former victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird said the force made a “dreadful” and “sexist” error when it released the information about her struggles with alcohol and the menopause,

She also expressed worry it would stop people making complaints in the future - and wondered if such details would have been released if she was a man.

Amid the backlash, Lancashire Police referred itself to the police watchdog over contact the force had with Bulley prior to her disappearance.

Read more: What happened to Nicola Bulley? The three main police theories

The row reached the top of government, with sources close to home secretary Suella Braverman revealing she was demanding an “explanation” from Lancashire Police as to why aspects of Bulley’s private life were disclosed.

The Information Commissioner said he would be asking Lancashire Police how it reached the decision to disclose Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and HRT (hormone replacement therapy).