Dorset

Gaia Pope death: Family blast police watchdog delays

Gaia Pope Image copyright PA
Image caption Gaia Pope's body was found 11 days after she went missing in November last year

The family of a 19-year-old woman found dead almost two years ago say they are "unable to grieve" due to delays to a police watchdog investigation.

Gaia Pope's body was found near a coastal path in the Purbeck area of Dorset 11 days after she went missing.

Dorset Police is being investigated over its handling of her disappearance and a previous rape allegation.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it would complete its inquiries "as quickly as possible".

A land and air search involving police, coastguard and hundreds of volunteers was carried out following Miss Pope's disappearance on 7 November 2017.

Her body was found by police on 18 November close to where items of her clothing had been found two days earlier.

A post-mortem examination concluded she died of hypothermia.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Search and rescue teams scoured the open space above the cliffs near Swanage in the hunt for Gaia Pope

Miss Pope's relatives, from Swanage, said they were told the coroner's inquest would be delayed less than four weeks before it was due to resume.

They said the IOPC was responsible and it had repeatedly broken its own deadlines "with little explanation".

The family added that it wanted to know whether her disappearance was treated sufficiently seriously, if third party involvement had been ruled out and why police "encouraged her not to pursue the case against her rapist".

"These are questions no grieving family should ever be left with, while the answers may be sitting on someone's desk," they said in a statement.

"Without them we live frozen, unable to grieve, unable to move forwards, unable even to begin."

The IOPC said it was "regularly updating" Miss Pope's family, Dorset Police and the coroner on its progress and expects to complete the investigation soon.

It added: "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."

The inquest into her Miss Pope's death is due to be reopened after the IOPC report is published.

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