Gaia Pope: Body found near Swanage in search for missing teenager

Family pay tribute to 'beautiful' girl who went missing earlier this month

Chris Baynes,Rachel Roberts
Saturday 18 November 2017 20:59 GMT
Gaia Pope: A body has been discovered in the hunt for the missing 19-year-old

Police searching for Gaia Pope have found a body near Swanage, which detectives said they are “confident” is the missing teenager.

Dorset Police said the discovery was made by specialist search teams near to a coastal path and field where items of the the 19-year-old’s clothing were found this week.

Members of her devastated family paid tribute to the “beautiful” teenager, who went missing on 7 November while staying at an address in the coastal town, prompting a huge search operation.

Police opened a murder inquiry after her clothing was found close to the address where she was staying on Thursday.

Detective Superintendent Paul Kessell, of Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team, said: “Although the body has yet to be formally identified, we are confident that we have found Gaia. Her family have been informed and are being supported by specially-trained officers.

“Our thoughts remain with all of her family and friends at this very traumatic time.”

He said the circumstances of her death remained “unexplained”.

Two men, aged 19 and 49, and a 71-year-old woman, all from Swanage and known to Gaia, were arrested on suspicion of murder earlier this week and have been released without charge while the investigation continues.

A large search operation was launched following Gaia's disappearance (PA)

Gaia’s mother, Natasha Pope, had said she had been “holding on to hope” her daughter would be found alive despite the discovery of her clothing.

Specialist police officers, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue, the coastguard and local volunteers had all been involved in the extensive search for Ms Pope. A police helicopter, 4x4s and sniffer dogs were deployed and around a thousand volunteers joined the search led by the teenager’s father, Richard Sutherland.

The body was discovered at 3pm on Saturday.

“The coroner has been notified and further forensic examination will continue,” said Mr Kessell. “This will guide the investigation in respect of the circumstances of the death which at this time remains unexplained.

“I would like to thank the community for their support and understanding while this large-scale investigation continues, and their efforts in looking for Gaia."

Fears has mounted steadily for Gaia with her distraught family making media appeals in which they said her disappearance was “completely out of character”.

The teenager was said to suffer from severe epilepsy as well as mental health problems, according to members of her family. She failed to turn up for a doctor’s appointment on the day she disappeared.

She was last seen alive buying an ice cream from a garage in Swanage and was captured on camera at 3.39pm running in her day clothes in an apparently distressed state.

Speaking to ITV News, devastated relatives reacted to news of the discovery they had dreaded.

Sister Clara Pope said: “I just want to tell everybody that every minute of your hard work has been absolutely worth it.

“She is – I’m not going to say was and never will – the absolute light of my life. So beautiful, so emotionally wise and intelligent and so passionate and artistic and creative and understanding...I just want to thank everybody, every hug, every message.”

Marienna Pope-Weidemann, Gaia’s cousin, added: “We want to thank each and every one of you for everything you’ve done. If there is one ray of light in this nightmare it is the compassion, humanity and community spirit that you’ve shown over the last 10 days.

“Your dedication and selflessness for a girl that many of you don’t even know has been staggering and one of the few things that kept us going.

“This afternoon the emergency services found Gaia’s body. We are absolutely devastated and unable to put those feelings of loss into words.

“We thank you for everything you have done. Our little bird has flown but will always be with us.”

DS Kessell added: “We have received a huge amount of support from the public who have contacted us with possible sightings of Gaia and items of found clothing.

“I can confirm that we have recovered all the clothing we believe Gaia was wearing when she disappeared and, with thanks, we no longer require the public to assist with searches."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at, via email or by calling 101, quoting incident number 18:128. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via

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