Gaia Pope-Sutherland's disappearance wasn't logged by police for three hours, inquest hears

An appeal poster for missing teenager Gaia Pope in a window of Beales Department Stores in Poole, Dorset Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Police should have created a missing person report on teenager Gaia Pope-Sutherland within 10 minutes of her running away – rather than nearly three hours later, an inquest has heard.

A Dorset Police control room supervisor said a report should have been made the first time the 19-year-old’s worried aunt rang the force.

Dorset Coroner’s Court heard Talia Pope phoned police at 3.41pm on 7 November 2017 to report her niece was “distressed” and had run out of her home in Swanage at 3.30pm.

But it was not until 6.15pm that a police call handler created a missing person report – despite several frantic calls from Ms Pope and the missing teenager’s mother Kim.

The college student’s disappearance sparked a large search operation in the Swanage area involving the police, Coastguard, National Police Air Service, Dorset Search and Rescue, and members of the public.

A post-mortem examination found the teenager died from hypothermia Credit: Dorset Coroner’s Court/PA

Eleven days later, on 18 November, her body was found by police search teams in undergrowth between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point, close to the coastline.

Miss Pope-Sutherland, who suffered from severe epilepsy, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after saying she had been raped by a man when she was 16, the inquest was told.

At the time of her disappearance, she was anxious about his imminent release from prison, where he had been serving a sentence for unrelated child sex offences.

The teenager’s aunt first told police she was missing in a phone call logged at 3.41pm, the court heard.

Ms Pope called again at 4.24pm, describing her niece as a “lost person” and saying she was “worried for her safety”.

She made a further call at 4.37pm, with control room dispatcher Lucinda Williams logging it as a “concern for welfare”.

Ms Williams said she believed there was an “expectation” Miss Pope-Sutherland would turn up for a GP appointment at 5pm.

A missing person report was finally created when Ms Pope called again at 6.15pm.

The court was told Dorset Police also received an email from Surrey Police at 5pm, detailing a call they had received from the teenager’s mother, Kim Pope, reporting her daughter missing.

Andrew Mustoe, who was a control room supervisor at the time, was asked by Dorset’s senior coroner Rachael Griffin to read a transcript of Ms Pope’s first call to police.

The teenager’s body was found on a coastal path between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

Ms Griffin asked: “If you had taken that call, would you have started a missing person log?”

Mr Mustoe replied: “Yes, I probably would. Her whereabouts couldn’t be confirmed.”

He was asked to read a transcript of the call Ms Pope made at 4.24pm, where she is reporting a “lost person” and confirming she had reported her niece missing earlier.

Ms Griffin asked: “Would you take that as a missing person report?”

Mr Mustoe: “Yes, it should.”

Ms Griffin asked: “Would you have treated that call at 4.37pm as a missing person report?”

He replied: “Yes.”

The coroner asked: “From your point (of view), you believe that missing persons report should have been started at 3.41pm on November 7 from the information contained in the phone call. Is that right?”

Mr Mustoe replied: “Yes.”

At 7pm, Miss Pope-Sutherland was graded as a “medium risk of harm” and in the early hours of the following day upgraded to “high risk”.

The inquest continues.

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