Wednesday 25 May 2022 05:22 PM Officer involved in search for Gaia Pope-Sutherland, 19, tells inquest of 'huge ... trends now

Wednesday 25 May 2022 05:22 PM Officer involved in search for Gaia Pope-Sutherland, 19, tells inquest of 'huge ... trends now
Wednesday 25 May 2022 05:22 PM Officer involved in search for Gaia Pope-Sutherland, 19, tells inquest of 'huge ... trends now

Wednesday 25 May 2022 05:22 PM Officer involved in search for Gaia Pope-Sutherland, 19, tells inquest of 'huge ... trends now

A senior police officer involved in the search for missing teenager Gaia Pope has told of his 'huge regret' that he could not find her alive.

Chief Inspector Jim Beashel was responsible for co-ordinating the search for the 19-year-old when her missing person status was upgraded to high risk nine hours after her worried aunt first reported her disappearance.

The college student, who had severe epilepsy, ran away from Talia Pope’s home in Swanage, Dorset, on the afternoon of November 7, 2017.

The aunt called police at 3.41pm, reporting that her niece was 'distressed' and had run off, before a missing report was later opened by a call handler at 6.15pm

An inquest into Gaia's death at Dorset Coroner's Court today heard that Chief Inspector Steve White, the force incident commander, graded her missing person status as medium at 7pm.

The same evening, a police helicopter searched the coastal areas between Old Harry Rocks and Sandbanks, while a single uniformed officer searched for Gaia alone on the ground.

Mr Beashel took over from Mr White as force incident commander at 10pm, but was not passed information relating to Gaia's case because she had not been deemed high risk.

He said he was not informed she was missing until 1.20am the following day, when colleague Inspector Andrew Alkins told him he had upgraded her risk from medium to high.

Gaia Pope-Sutherland (pictured) vanished from the home of her aunt in Swanage, Dorset, on November 7, 2017

Gaia Pope-Sutherland (pictured) vanished from the home of her aunt in Swanage, Dorset, on November 7, 2017

Volunteers and police officers pictured meticulously combing through grassland during the search for the teen

Volunteers and police officers pictured meticulously combing through grassland during the search for the teen

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

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

A specialist police search adviser was subsequently informed, with inquiries also made to see what available officers could be sent to Swanage to help with the search.

But Mr Beashel said he did not believe there was anything more he could have done on the night of her disappearance.

He told the inquest: 'Like all force incident commanders, I take my responsibilities very seriously in terms of what we are able to do and to deploy resources to help people when they are in need is a real privilege,” he said.

'It is of huge regret I was on duty at a time when I didn’t have the resources to be able to deploy in way that would have allowed us to locate Gaia a lot sooner.

'We all have our duties to protect and preserve life and when we are unable to fulfil (them) there is huge regret to me personally and, I know, my colleagues as well.

'I can give lots of examples where I’ve managed missing persons investigations and had successful outcomes, and they are the types of incidents I enjoy running because it is an opportunity for us to make a real difference and save someone’s life.

'It’s of huge regret it didn’t happen this time.'

On the night of Ms Pope-Sutherland’s disappearance, there were 107 police officers on duty, but this dropped to 60 from midnight, the court heard.

Mr Beashel said officers were 'busy' dealing with 45 different incidents, including a firearms report and someone who had absconded from hospital.

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 

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