Gaia Pope death ‘not being treated as murder’ as three people arrested are released without charge

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Police are treating Gaia Pope’s death as ‘unexplained’ (PA)

Police are not treating the death of teenager Gaia Pope as murder, following the discovery of her body over the weekend.

The three people arrested in connection with her disappearance have been released without charge.

Dorset Police said no-one else was involved in the death of the 19-year-old, whose body was found on Saturday afternoon by specialist search teams on land south of Swanage, near where some of her clothing was recovered.

Greg Elsey, 69, whose son 49-year-old son Paul, grandson Nathan, 19, and ex-wife Rosemary Dinch were all arrested and released, said the family are now considering suing the police.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “We will take action for wrongful arrest. This has ruined their lives. Mud sticks doesn’t it.

“Police should have said they were talking to someone who was helping them. Instead they said they arrested people on suspicion of murder.

“In terms of a smear on someone’s character, it really doesn’t get much worse, does it?”

The teenager’s body was discovered on Saturday on land south of Swanage (PA)

A post-mortem examination had not identified any injuries to suggest third party involvement and Miss Pope’s death is now being treated as “unexplained”.

Detective Superintendent Paul Kessell, of Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team, said: “Following the results of the post-mortem examination and other ongoing investigative inquiries, we have concluded that no-one else was involved in Gaia’s death.

“As such we have today released from our investigation two men aged 19 and 49 and a 71-year-old woman, all from Swanage, who had been arrested and were assisting with our inquiries.

“I appreciate our inquiries would have caused these individuals stress and anxiety, however we have an obligation in any missing person investigation to explore every possible line of inquiry.

“The public would expect Dorset Police to fully investigate the sudden disappearance of a teenage girl.

“Our aim was not only to find Gaia but to find out what happened to her.

“Gaia’s family has been informed of this latest development and our thoughts remain with all her family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.”

Dorset Police said a post-mortem examination had not identified any injuries to suggest third party involvement (PA)

Miss Pope, who suffered from severe epilepsy, had not been seen for 11 days and her disappearance prompted a massive campaign from family and friends to find her.

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DS Kessell added: “The area where the body was located is likely to remain cordoned off for some time while forensic examinations and searches are concluded.

“Please can I ask that the public no longer attend to assist with searches and that they remain a safe distance from the location.

“I reiterate this area is steep and slippery in an exposed area close to sea cliffs. The area is covered in dense undergrowth and gorse and can present a hazard.

“Only specially-trained search and forensic teams are entering the area, assisted by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service recovery teams.”

Miss Pope’s twin sister, Maya, spoke of her heartbreak and vowed to “make her so proud”.

Paying tribute to the teenager, Miss Pope-Sutherland, wrote on Facebook: “Can’t find any words right now. Gaia is my everything and I am heartbroken. I thank everyone who was involved in searching for my beautiful twin. Going to make her so proud.”

Last night, elder sister Clara Pope described the teenager as the “absolute light of my life” and said she was “so beautiful, so emotionally wise and intelligent and so passionate and artistic and creative and understanding”.

Floral tributes have begun to be left on the Alfred Monument, next to the sea front.

The news of the discovery of Miss Pope’s body on Saturday night came hours after hundreds of people joined searches around Swanage looking for the teenager.

Miss Pope had not been seen for 11 days and her disappearance prompted a massive campaign to find her (PA)

Miss Pope’s father, Richard Sutherland, was among them and personally thanked members of the public who had gathered at Durlston Country Park.

On Friday, Miss Pope’s mother, Natasha, said she had not given up hope her daughter would be found alive – saying: “I believe miracles can happen.”

Earlier, Mr Sutherland said he feared his daughter’s epilepsy may have played a part in her disappearance as she had been warned by doctors that she was at risk of sudden death from the condition.

Floral tributes have begun to be left on the Alfred Monument, next to the sea front (PA)

Miss Pope had not been seen since about 4pm on November 7 in Manor Gardens, Swanage.

An hour earlier she was captured on CCTV buying an ice cream inside St Michael’s Garage in the town, having been driven there by a relative.

She was said to be wearing a red checked shirt with white buttons, grey and white woven leggings and white trainers. The black jacket she had on was recovered from an address in Manor Gardens.

Forensic investigations have concluded at two properties in Manor Gardens, which are believed to be linked to the people arrested.