The body of Gaia Pope-Sutherland was found in undergrowth near Swanage in Dorest in November 2017
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 A uniformed police officer searched for missing teenager Gaia Pope-Sutherland alone on the day of her disappearance, an inquest heard.

PC Jon Kuspert searched Swanage for the 19-year-old after her family reported her missing on November 7 2017.

A National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter joined the search for the college student after he failed to find her on his own.

Dorset Coroner’s Court heard that aircraft left Bournemouth airport at 8.30pm, five hours after Miss Pope-Sutherland first ran off from her aunt’s home.

She grew up in Dorset with her mum Natasha, older sister Clara, twin sister Maya and her cousin Marieanna. 

The body of Gaia Pope-Sutherland was found in undergrowth near Swanage in Dorest in November 2017

The body of Gaia Pope-Sutherland was found in undergrowth near Swanage in Dorest in November 2017

Her family claims they told police to look in the area where he body was eventually found, but it still took 11 days for officers to locate her

Her family claims they told police to look in the area where he body was eventually found, but it still took 11 days for officers to locate her 

A huge search party of volunteers was deployed to find the teenager who suffered from severe epilepsy and PTSD after being raped by a man when she was 16.  

NPAS officers used thermal imaging equipment to search from Old Harry Rocks to Durlston on the coast.

Miss Pope-Sutherland’s naked body was found 11 days later in deep undergrowth on the Dancing Ledge area.

 PC Kuspert spoke with PC Scott Mesher, a flight officer with NPAS, who flew the helicopter that searched for the teenager.

‘I was aware he had been allocated the initial inquiries for Gaia’s disappearance,’ PC Mesher told the court.

‘I spoke to him in the early evening.

‘I can’t remember who phoned who, but we had a conversation in relation to can NPAS assist with the search for Gaia.

Gaia's family, pictured here outside Dorset Coroner's Court, say she may have been found sooner if police had listened to them

Gaia’s family, pictured here outside Dorset Coroner’s Court, say she may have been found sooner if police had listened to them

‘At the time of speaking to him, he said, ‘I am literally on my own here trying to search everywhere can you help?’

‘We are always keen to assist where we can.

‘The initial request from PC Kuspert was pretty much, ‘Can you search the whole of the Purbecks?’

‘The answer to that is no because it is not an achievable search area because it is just so large.

‘The built-up urban area is difficult to search.

A map shows where Ms Pope-Sutherland lived, where she was last seen and the areas where her clothes and body were found

A map shows where Ms Pope-Sutherland lived, where she was last seen and the areas where her clothes and body were found 

Miss Pope-Sutherland suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. Pictured: The last picture of Gaia on the day she went missing

Miss Pope-Sutherland suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. Pictured: The last picture of Gaia on the day she went missing

The body of Gaia Pope-Sutherland was found in undergrowth near Swanage in Dorest in November 2017

The body of Gaia Pope-Sutherland was found in undergrowth near Swanage in Dorest in November 2017

‘I said the best option at the moment would be the coastal cliff paths surrounding Swanage.

‘We agreed on Dancing Ledge all the way round to the Sandbanks chain ferry.’

PC Mesher said the helicopter used thermal imaging equipment to look at night but was not as good at detecting people inside buildings or underneath thick foliage or gorse.

Gaia Pope-Sutherland was 19 when she was reported missing from her home in Swanage, Dorset, in 2017. Her naked body was found 11 days later on cliff tops in undergrowth after she had died from hypothermia

Gaia Pope-Sutherland was 19 when she was reported missing from her home in Swanage, Dorset, in 2017. Her naked body was found 11 days later on cliff tops in undergrowth after she had died from hypothermia

PC Kuspert felt surprised after being refused helicopter support to look for Miss Pope-Sutherland, the jury heard last week.

PC Mesher said he did not know about the initial refusal.

PC Mesher said he was unaware of where the teenager could be but knew her epilepsy and mental health problems meant she was classed as a ‘medium risk’ missing person.

The family had told the police where  she might be as one of the most probable destinations was Priest’s Way which lead to Dancing Ledge.

‘I was under the impression Gaia was having a crisis in her life and from previous experience people who are going through that want to find space and they go to places they know, such as beauty spots,’ PC Mesher said.

‘For the aircraft it’s an open area so it’s of benefit for us to be able to search that.’

When asked why he went out searching for her, PC Mesher said: ‘No one knew where she had gone.

‘It was a huge ask on his (PC Kuspert) own.’

Neil Cartwright, the Bournemouth NPAS base manager told the court that requests for helicopter deployment had to be made to the NPAS HQ in Yorkshire.

Waiting several hours for permission would delay the search and when asked what a difference using those hours made, he replied: ‘A huge amount normally.

‘We call it the ‘limit of probability’.

‘At the time of the last sighting, whether they are on foot or a vehicle, that ring of where there could be without a direction of travel gets wider and wider and wider.

‘After four hours that person could be anywhere, to be fair.

‘The locality there, a huge amount of cliff area.

‘The limit of probability was probably limited, the decision made was it was worth looking.’

Gaia Pope-Sutherland was upset by the death of her grandfather and was 'teetering on the edge of something' when she went missing, an inquest into her death has heard

Gaia Pope-Sutherland was upset by the death of her grandfather and was ‘teetering on the edge of something’ when she went missing, an inquest into her death has heard

On November 8, 9, 10 and 16 the NPAS helicopter was sent out to search for Miss Pope-Sutherland.

Her aunt first called the police 10 minutes after her niece ran away at 3.30pm but a missing person report was not created until 6.15pm.

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

Mr Sutherland, Gaia’s father, praised volunteers who helped search for his daughter but questioned whether the police did enough to find his daughter in the first 48 hours.

‘To me the big issues here relate to whether the police operation was well led and managed and from the information we have so far, and the early reports of Gaia going missing were not fully or properly acted on,’ he told the jury.

‘I understand that the police initially claimed that their policy was that she was only ‘medium risk’ and did not require an immediate full search effort.

Gaia Pope's father Richard Sutherland told the inquest the police failed to use resources appropriately (pictured) Mr Sutherland thanks members of the public before a community search at Durlston Country Park in Dorset for the missing teenager

Gaia Pope’s father Richard Sutherland told the inquest the police failed to use resources appropriately (pictured) Mr Sutherland thanks members of the public before a community search at Durlston Country Park in Dorset for the missing teenager

The family told police to search Dancing Ledge early on (pictured) Members of the public looking for missing teenager Gaia Pope during a community search in Dorset

The family told police to search Dancing Ledge early on (pictured) Members of the public looking for missing teenager Gaia Pope during a community search in Dorset

‘Later we learned that the officer who took the initial call or calls did not follow the procedure and going home without fully logging and handling the case over to colleagues in the correct manner. 

‘I mean it is reasonable to suggest there was a failure of intelligence gathering by the police.

‘All her close family – parents, sisters, aunt and cousin – independently told police officers early in the search that that if Gaia had gone missing on her own and in a distressed state one of the most probable routes, destinations was Priest’s Way leading to Dancing Ledge.

‘I believe that had the police search operation coordinated that information early in the search then a more intensive effort along that route and destination could well have discovered her earlier, whether still alive or not.

‘Even in the latter case, many days of needless suffering for the family might have been avoided.’

The inquest continues.

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