Epilepsy may have played a “big part” in Gaia Pope's disappearance

The father and cousin of missing teenager Gaia Pope have told Good Morning Britain her epilepsy may have played a 'big part' in her disappearance.

As the search for Gaia continues, her father Richard Sutherland expressed how the family fear her condition may have left her disoriented and confused.

He explained: “The doctors have said that she is at risk of sudden death from epilepsy, or sudden epileptic death. It’s pretty serious.” Speaking of Gaia’s ‘great spirit’, Richard added: “She’s got a big, big heart. Big, big heart. She’s a very loving girl.”

Police continue to question a 49-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder. He is believed to have known the 19-year-old who went missing 10 days ago. Clothes similar to what Gaia was wearing were discovered near a coastal path in Swanage.

Speaking about the seriousness of Gaia’s epilepsy, her cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann explained: “Gaia’s condition has been really deteriorating over the last six months to a year. She rarely gets through a day without a seizure. Sometimes they’re very small. Other times they’re very serious. Those bigger seizures are often accompanied with quite prolonged periods of confusion and disorientation. There’s been times when she’s not recognised us for a short time afterwards, not really understood where she is. That’s a big part of what’s made this case so complicated.”

Richard added: “One thing we’ve really tried to do is not to go off down every speculation because that can lead you to 100 different ideas with a 100 different variations on everything. But, it’s entirely possible that her epilepsy has played a big part in this and that’s meant it’s been more difficult to find her.”

Richard and Marienna explained to GMB, how the efforts of the community and their family and friends “will be what gives the family the answers that we desperately need.”

Richard added: “It’s impossible to express in words really the gratitude we have for all the help we’ve had from every quarter.”