Missing teen Gaia Pope vanished 11 days ago from Swanage, a coastal town in England. Since then, exhaustive searches have taken place for the 19-year-old. On Saturday, authorities said they believe a body found on nearby land is that of Gaia.
Gaia’s cousin, Marienna Pope-Weidemann, told Sky News the teen’s family members are “absolutely devastated” by the news and are not able to put their “feelings of loss into words.” She called Gaia a “ray of light in this nightmare,” while thanking those who helped in the search for her cousin.
On Tuesday, November 7, Gaia and a family member drove to Swanage and stopped for gas along the way. The teen is seen on CCTV cameras buying ice cream at around 2:55 p.m. and at about 3:39 p.m. CCTV footage caught Gaia running down a local road, according to the Daily Echo.
Six days later, police arrested Nathan Elsey, 19, and his grandmother, Rosemary Dinch, 71, on suspicion of murder, reports the Daily Echo. The next day, on November 14, the two were released.
On Thursday, November 16, Paul Elsey, 49, was arrested on suspicion of murder, after women’s clothing was discovered in a field near Swanage, according to the Daily Echo. He was released on Friday, November 17.
Gaia’s family has stated that the last two years for the teen have been extremely tough, the Daily Mail reports. She was fearful of running into the main perpetrator of a “devastating” attack she suffered when she was 17 years old, as he is reportedly set to be released from prison soon. The attack left Gaia with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to her father, Richard Sutherland.
Additionally, Gaia has severe epilepsy and her father notes that the teen has been told by doctors she could die suddenly due to her illness, according to the Daily Mail. Gaia reportedly suffered from daily seizures and would often be unable to remember things, including her own family, her cousin stated.
Only two days before she vanished, Gaia took to her Instagram page and posted a message indicating she was scared. The Daily Mail notes that the teen wrote she was afraid of being “shut up and put in a cell.” She also hinted at the notion that authorities were keeping tabs on her phone so she was going to stop using it for a few days.
On Saturday, Detective Superintendent Paul Kessel said in a statement that the body discovered has not yet been identified, but authorities are “confident” they have found Gaia, according to Sky News. Kessel also thanked those in the community for their support and said police “no longer require the public to assist with searches.”
The medical examiner is now conducting a forensic examination on the body to confirm its identity and cause of death.
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