Police thought aunt of missing Dorset teenager Gaia Pope was talking 'absolute rubbish'

19-year-old Gaia Pope was reported missing from her home in Swanage on November 7, 2017 and her body was found in undergrowth 11 days later. Credit: Dorset Police/PA

A police officer thought the aunt of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope-Sutherland was "talking absolute rubbish" after making a series of calls to Dorset Police hours before she went missing, an inquest has heard.

19-year-old Gaia Pope was reported missing from her home in Swanage, on November 7 2017 and her body was found in undergrowth 11 days later.

The teenager’s mental health was deteriorating due to worries about the imminent release from prison of the man she had accused of raping her, and also having been sent indecent images on social media.

She had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after revealing she had been raped by a man when she was 16.

Gaia Pope's aunt, Talia Pope, had phoned the control room five times on the morning of November 7.

She called to try to confirm the arrangements for her niece to speak to an officer about an allegation of receiving indecent images via Facebook.

Gaia Pope, who suffered from severe epilepsy, was reported missing from her home in Swanage later that day.

Dorset Coroner's Court was played the series of calls Talia Pope made to Dorset Police about the meeting.

Gaia Pope-Sutherland died in November 2017 Credit: PA

In the fifth call, the handler spoke to an officer at Wareham police station saying she has Ms Pope on the line about her niece.

The officer replied: "This is the fifth call I've had. The last call ended with them talking absolute rubbish."

"I have no idea who they are, what they are on about and they started calling me a drag queen, so I decided at that point to hang up."

"If they are there, put them through and I'll see if I can get some more sense out of them."

In an earlier call, a control room handler spoke to an officer at Wareham police station.

While laughing, the call handler said: "She's calling in regard to her niece Gaia, is that right?"

The officer replied: "Yeah, this is the fourth time I've spoken to her today, I have no idea what she's on about. Put her through and I'll try and help her."

The jury heard officers could not find any records of earlier calls because they were searching on the system for "Gaia Hope".

The teenager’s body was found in undergrowth near Swanage coastal path Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

They did find a report but believed it was to do with the alleged rape the teenager reported in 2015 and said it would be a matter for Weymouth CID.

In a call made shortly after midday, Talia Pope was told by the call handler that an officer would ring her on her mobile phone about the complaint to arrange a meeting at her home or a police station.

Talia Pope told the court that when her niece received the indecent images from a man via Facebook it was a "trigger" for her.

She said: "Her anxiety soared, and she was absolutely obsessed with being actively listened to about the images and making a formal report about them."

Gaia Pope contacted police on November 2 to make a complaint and was due to meet with officers to make a formal statement on the day she disappeared.

The court heard that on November 6, Talia Pope made three calls to Dorset Police to confirm the arrangements for the following day with her niece.

On November 7, Ms Pope made five calls to Dorset Police in the morning to try to confirm what time she would bring her niece to the police station that afternoon.

She said: "I wasn't going to give up until I had the finer details and knew what was ahead of us because of how important I perceived it to be for Gaia's mental health and the pressure I could see building up."

Talia Pope drove to her brother's house where Gaia Pope had been staying and said her niece's behaviour that morning was "chaotic" and "highly sexualised".

"She needed help. She had quite a bit of medical help, but we were still back, I am sorry to say, to square one," she added.

She said she collected her belongings and took the teenager back to her home, as her uncle and mother were due to be away.

After the college student was reported missing, a large search operation was launched in the Swanage area for the teenager, including police, HM Coastguard, the National Police Air Service, Dorset Search and Rescue, and members of the public.

On November 18, her body was found by police search teams in undergrowth between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point.

The inquest continues.