14 July 2022

Jury retires to consider conclusion in teenager Gaia Pope-Sutherland inquest

14 July 2022

A jury has retired to consider its conclusion in the inquest into the death of Gaia Pope-Sutherland, who was found dead in undergrowth 11 days after running away from home.

The 19-year-old, who suffered from severe epilepsy, was reported missing in Swanage, Dorset, on November 7 2017.

A search operation was launched and included police, the Coastguard, National Police Air Service, Dorset Search and Rescue and members of the public.

A post-mortem examination found the teenager died from hypothermia (Dorset Coroner’s Court/PA) (PA Media)

On November 18, Miss Pope-Sutherland’s body was found by police between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point, close to the Swanage coastal path.

A post-mortem examination found she died from hypothermia.

An entomologist said he believed the latest she was alive was November 9.

During the 11-week inquest, jurors at Dorset Coroner’s Court in Bournemouth heard evidence from 78 witnesses, including admitted failings from healthcare professionals and Dorset Police.

Among these accepted failings was a delay in creating a missing person report for the teenager, her initial grading as medium risk instead of high risk, and the delayed response in the first 48 hours after she disappeared.

There is insufficient evidence to say that if these failings had not occurred Gaia would have survived

Rachael Griffin, senior coroner for Dorset, told the jury in her legal directions that even though the force admitted failings in the search for Miss Pope-Sutherland, there was not enough evidence to find they contributed to her death.

“There is insufficient evidence to say that if these failings had not occurred Gaia would have survived,” she said.

“I have concluded that none of these can be safely considered to be either probably or possibly causative of Gaia’s death.”

The coroner also directed the jury to try and reach a unanimous conclusion.

She said: “Your conclusion must not be framed in such a way as to appear to determine the question of criminal or civil liability on the part of a named person.

“You decide this case solely on the evidence you see and hear in this court. Do not do your own research or look anything up on the internet.”

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