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Gaia Pope: Sister pays tribute to 'light of her life' after body found

Gaia Pope's sister has paid tribute to the teenager as "the absolute light of my life" after police said a body had been found.

Dorset Police said they are "confident" that the body found on land near Swanage in the hunt for the missing 19-year-old is Ms Pope and added that the cause of death "at this time remains unexplained".

The body was discovered at around 3pm on Saturday on land to the south of the town, close to where clothing positively identified as Ms Pope's was found on Thursday.

The teenager was last seen in Swanage 11 days ago at an address in Manor Gardens in Morrison Road at around 4pm on November 7.

The teenager was wearing a red checked shirt with white buttons, grey and white woven leggings and white trainers.

On Saturday police said they had recovered all the clothing the teenager was thought to be wearing when she disappeared.

Speaking just hours after the body's discovery, Clara Pope, the elder sister of Gaia, paid tribute to "the light" of her life.

Fighting back tears, in a statement she said: "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."

She continued that she would "always be one of three" siblings and thanked the public in their attempts to help find the missing teenager.

Gaia Pope's twin, Maya Pope-Sutherland paid tribute to her sister on Facebook, writing: "Can't find any words right now.

"Gaia is my everything and I am heartbroken.

"I thanks everyone who was involved in searching for my beautiful twin.

"Going to make her so proud."

Gaia Pope's cousin, Marienna Pope-Weidemann, also thanked the public for the help and support they had given the family.

In a statement, Ms Pope-Weidemann said: "We want to thank each and everyone 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."

Volunteers scour a search area near to Swanage. Credit: PA

Dorset Police Detective Superintendent Paul Kessell, said that "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...

"The coroner has been notified and further forensic examination will continue. 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."

On Saturday search parties scoured areas around the town and were joined by Ms Pope's father, Richard Sutherland, who joined the volunteers and thanked them for their efforts.

Police have launched a murder investigation as they piece together Ms Pope's movements.

The search comes after investigators arrested and released a 49-year-old man, the third such person after a 19-year-old man and 71-year-old woman were detained before being let go.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk, via 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 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org.