Whistleblower says missing teenager called police on day she vanished – inquest

- Advertisement -

A teenager whose disappearance sparked a major police inquiry may have called the emergency services several times on the day she vanished, an inquest has heard.

Gaia Pope was reported missing from her home near Swanage, Dorset, on November 7 2017 and her disappearance prompted a massive campaign from family and friends to find her.

The body of the 19-year-old, who suffered from severe epilepsy, was found by police search teams in undergrowth between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point, close to the Swanage coastal path, 11 days later.

Knowledge of the calls has only emerged in a statement from an anonymous Dorset Police whistleblower to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which is investigating the force’s response to the initial missing person inquiry.

The hearing in Bournemouth heard the identity of the officer – called Officer X – is currently only known to the coroner and the IOPC.

The officer has alleged in a statement to the police watchdog that Miss Pope had telephoned the force on the day she vanished and the calls were terminated by police because she was “abusive”.

Rachael Griffin, senior coroner for Dorset, told the hearing Officer X was already a witness to the inquest and in the future she would consider issues of anonymity and special measures for them.

“Within Dorset Police I believe we have had all information and I am asking you to clarify it because information has come to light about two phone calls we didn’t know about before,” she said.

“Ultimately, I expect all relevant documentation to be provided to this court because you have a duty to exist.

“Whether I ask for certain documents or not, I don’t know what you have, and your duty is to assist me as the coroner to provide any relevant documentation that you think would assist me in the investigation I am carrying out.

“If Officer X is to be believed, there is evidence of two items or documentation that have not been provided to me that could be very relevant to this inquest.

“As a result of that, I am asking you to review all the records because no matter how much has been provided to me – whether it is 10 pages or thousands of pages – if one page of very relevant information is missing it is significant.”

Beatrice Collier, representing the chief constable of Dorset Police, said it had been claimed the person who made the calls was “abusive and incoherent”.

“At the moment, what we have is a suggestion from an anonymous witness that there was a call that was put through to another Pc where the caller was abusive and incoherent, so he terminated the call,” she said.

“No further information is said as to why it is said that is a call from Miss Pope-Sutherland.”

Sophy Miles, representing several members of the Pope family, said other evidence from call handlers suggested there had been up to five calls on the day the teenager vanished.

Miss Miles said the teenager’s aunt, Talia Pope, had phoned the police and the recording captured an officer say this was the fifth call they had received.

Gaia Pope vigil
A candlelight tribute for Gaia Pope (Ben Birchall/PA)

“There is little doubt that those calls are from Gaia, the calls were on the day of her disappearance and illustrative of her mental state on that occasion.”

A further pre-inquest hearing will take place in February, with the jury inquest due to begin on April 25 next year.

The inquest will be conducted under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in order to consider “how and in what circumstances” Miss Pope died.

The jury will hear evidence of what Dorset Police did from November 7, the day Miss Pope disappeared, until November 11, at which point she was likely to have already died.

A post-mortem examination confirmed she had died from hypothermia.

They will also consider evidence of Miss Pope’s epilepsy, her mental health, particularly the impact upon her of an alleged rape she suffered aged 16.

Dorset Police took no further action in relation to that allegation and her family say she developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder following that decision.

During the police investigation, three people – two men aged 19 and 49 and a 71-year-old woman – were arrested. They were released without any further action being taken.

In a statement afterwards, Miss Pope’s family said: “Today has been a very difficult day for Gaia’s family but Officer X’s courage in coming forward has given us hope.

“There are no words to express our gratitude for the integrity they have shown in coming forward.

“This is the standard that we should be able to expect from all public servants and we believe their courageous decision may well save lives in the future.

“We would ask that anyone else who has concerns or relevant information to share come forward.

“It is only through honest reflection and accountability that our family and our community can hope to heal from this, confident that lives in the future may be saved.”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.