Gaia Pope's family 'absolutely devastated' after police find body

Ajay Nair, News Reporter

The family of Gaia Pope have said they are "absolutely devastated" after police searching for the missing 19-year-old found a body.

Officers from Dorset Police say they are "confident" the body is that of the teenager.

The discovery on land near Swanage was made at about 3pm on Saturday by specialist search teams close to the coastal path and the field where her clothes were found on Thursday.

Her sister Clara Pope said: "She is the absolute light of my life. So beautiful, so emotionally wise and intelligent and so passionate and artistic and creative... I will always, always, always be one of three."

The teenager's cousin, Marienna Pope-Weidemann, thanked those who helped in the search for Miss Pope, calling their efforts a "ray of light in this nightmare".

She added: "We are absolutely devastated and unable to put these feelings of loss into words. Our little bird has flown but will always be with us."

In a statement, Detective Superintendent Paul Kessell said the body was not yet formally identified.

He 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 coroner had been notified and that further forensic examination was set to continue, adding that the circumstances behind the death "remain unexplained".

The statement comes after hundreds of people joined the search for the missing teenager on Saturday, scouring countryside and coastline in Dorset.

Mr Kessell said: "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.

"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."

Gaia, who had severe epilepsy, had been missing for over a week, and clothes belonging to the 19-year-old were found on Thursday in a field near cliffs.

She was last seen at about 4pm on 7 November in Manor Gardens, Swanage.

Three people - a 71-year-old woman, a 19-year-old man and a 49-year-old man - were arrested on suspicion of murder but released under investigation.

:: Officers are asking anyone with information to email 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101, quoting incident number 18:128. Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.