Gaia Pope death: Family wants answers to ‘vital questions’

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media captionMiss Pope’s cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann (left), her twin Maya Pope-Sutherland (centre) and her mother Natasha Pope

The family of a teenager found dead 11 days after going missing nearly three years ago said “vital questions” about her death remain unanswered.

Gaia Pope, 19, was found near the Dorset coastal path in November 2017.

At a pre-inquest review hearing Ms Pope’s family asked to delay the full inquest into her death due to “significant gaps in the evidence”.

Coroner Rachael Griffin granted the request. The inquest, previously set for January, has been put back to May.

Ms Pope’s family said: “Vital questions about Gaia’s death – and the adequacy of local support services – remain unanswered.”

Gaia Pope

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image captionGaia Pope’s body was found 11 days after she went missing in November 2017

Speaking after the hearing at Bournemouth Coroner’s Court on Tuesday, Ms Pope’s cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann thanked the coroner for granting the delay.

“We know that there are significant gaps in the evidence,” she said.

“The one thing we want more than for this to be over is for this to be effective and prevent future harm.

“We are not satisfied that those criteria have been met at this time. Gaia deserves a full and fearless inquest.”

Ms Pope’s twin sister, Maya Pope-Sutherland, said: “We have waited such a long time for answers.

“We are here to speak for her, to stand for her – I want to thank Gaia for giving me the strength to do this, I’m sorry that we lost her along the way.”

Her family believe she died due to failings by police and mental health services following an allegation of rape.

At the pre-inquest hearing, Ms Griffin said the inquest will not look at how police investigated Ms Pope’s allegation.

But it will look at the impact it had on her mental health – and how she was treated by health services from 2015.

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image captionSearch teams scoured areas above the cliffs near Swanage in the hunt for Gaia Pope

Following Ms Pope’s disappearance on 7 November, searches by police, the coastguard and police helicopter – along with hundreds of volunteers – were carried out in the Swanage area.

Her body was

found by police on 18 November, close to where items of her clothing had been found two days earlier.

A post-mortem examination concluded she died of hypothermia.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has investigated both the handling of the search for Gaia and the rape allegation.

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