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  1. ITV Report

Family of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope 'devastated' at further delay to investigation into her death

Marienna Pope-Weidermann, Gaia's cousin

The family of a Dorset teenager who disappeared almost two years ago say they are "devastated" that they still have not had the results of an investigation into the events leading up to her death.

The body of 19-year-old Gaia Pope was found 11 days after she disappeared from Swanage.

The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating the conduct of detectives who looked for her but they will not release their report until after a full inquest into Gaia's death.

Deadlines for the IOPC investigation have been extended several times since May.

Gaia Pope disappeared from Swanage in November 2017.

November 7 marks the second anniversary of Gaia's disappearance.

Her family says that for almost two years they have been "left struggling to stay afloat in a sea of unanswered questions", "without them we live frozen, unable to grieve, unable to move forwards, unable even to begin".

Every deadline the IOPC has given our family has been broken with little explanation, while decisions are made without us behind closed doors. Even the monthly updates we were promised, we have had to chase for. Now, less than four weeks before it was due to resume, we are told that the inquest will be postponed yet again. Even now, we have no guarantees that the answers we have long waited and suffered for will be given to us in full."

– Statement from family of Gaia Pope

The family maintains that what happened to Gaia is one of public concern and families "have the right to meaningful participation in investigations, but too often this is not happening as it should".

As a result, Gaia's family is campaigning to improve these systems with support from the charity INQUEST.

Police, the coastguard and hundreds of volunteers searched for Gaia following her disappearance Credit: ITV News Meridian

We are working to complete our two investigations as quickly as possible and are regularly updating Miss Pope-Sutherland’s family, the Coroner and Dorset Police on our progress. We expect to complete both reports soon. Our investigations have involved reviewing a substantial number of documents and police communications, scene visits, interviewing and gathering statements from a wide range of witnesses, and considering national and force policies.

“Because of a risk of prejudicing future coronial proceedings, we are consulting with the Coroner whose decision it is whether the reports can be shared with interested persons to the inquest. If we are not able to share the full report in advance of the inquest, we intend to visit the family to give them an overview of our findings and provide them with as much information as we can.

“As stated in our publication policy, reports and investigation summaries will normally be published as soon as possible following the conclusion of all related external proceedings, which includes the inquest. We are grateful for the patience shown by Gaia’s family and all involved while we have conducted an appropriately thorough investigation into such a tragic event.”

– Spokesperson, IOPC