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A teenage girl was “unsettled” the day she was last seen alive due to the imminent release from prison of the man she had accused of raping her, an inquest has heard.
Gaia Pope-Sutherland, 19, who had been diagnosed with PTSD, also told Dorset Police before her death that she received indecent images via social media, jurors heard.
The coroner said Miss Pope-Sutherland was also upset by Dorset Police’s decision not to charge the unidentified man she had accused of raping her in 2014 when she was 16.
He was subsequently jailed for s*x crimes committed against other people and was due to be released in the fall of 2017, the court was told.
A major search operation was launched in the Swanage area for the teenager, after she went missing on November 17, 2017, including police, HM Coastguard, National Police Air Service, Dorset Search and Rescue and members of the public.
A day later, police search teams found her body in the brush between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point, near the Swanage Coastal Path.
Rachael Griffin, Dorset Chief Coroner, said
Rachael Griffin, Dorset Chief Coroner, said: “In December 2015, Gaia revealed to her family that she had been raped the previous year when she was 16.
‘She made a report to the police and that report was investigated. The alleged perpetrator denied the accusation. He was not charged or convicted of any crimes related to Gaia.
‘About a year later, however, the alleged perpetrator was found guilty of other s*xual offenses related to other victims and sentenced to a prison term.
He was scheduled to be released from prison in the fall of 2017.
‘At the time of her disappearance on November 7, 2017, Gaia was anxious about her imminent release.
“It is not relevant to you in your role in this investigation to hear any details about the precise circumstances of the alleged rape, or any details about the police investigation into the rape allegation, or the decision not to charge the alleged perpetrator.
It is not for you to make any decision about the rape charge.
“However, it is important that you hear evidence about the impact of the alleged rape on Gaia, how upset Gaia was about the decision not to charge the alleged perpetrator and the impact of that on her mental health and the impact of the alleged perpetrator.” impending release on Gaia’s sanity.
In her opening statement, Ms Griffin said that Ms Pope-Sutherland was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2013 and she continued to receive treatment from doctors in both Dorset and London for the condition.
The adolescent was first referred to mental health services for evaluation in December 2015 and 12 months later with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“She was last seen and evaluated by a mental health team on October 22, 2017 when she was discharged back to the care of a general practitioner,” said Ms Griffin.
The court heard that on November 2, Miss Pope-Sutherland informed Dorset Police that she had received indecent images via social media and that she was to make a formal statement on the day of her disappearance.
“Gaia was with her aunt that day at her aunt’s address on Argyle Road in Swanage while her aunt helped her make arrangements to file a formal complaint,” the coroner said.
‘Gaia seemed very restless that day and she left her aunt’s address, fleeing the address around 3:40 p.m.
“After Gaia left her aunt’s address, her aunt contacted Dorset Police at 3:42pm to record that she was having some sort of episode and that the aunt of her was worried about her well-being”.
CCTV at 3:40 p.m
The teenager, who suffered from severe epilepsy, was captured by CCTV at 3:40 p.m. m. running down Morrison Road.
“Gaia then attended a friend’s grandmother’s address and is behaving irrationally,” the coroner said.
“She leaves that address and the last known sighting of Gaia was on CCTV in Priest’s Road at 3:59pm on 7th November.”
The coroner said the inquest would last until July and would consider “how and under what circumstances” Miss Pope-Sutherland died.
The jury will hear evidence of the care given to her and what the Dorset Police did from November 7, the day Miss Pope-Sutherland disappeared, until her body was found.
The inquest will examine family evidence, pathological evidence, Gaia’s epilepsy care, and care provided by the mental health team.
The investigation was adjourned until Wednesday.
Gaia Pope-Sutherland Quick and Facts
- An inquest heard Gaia Pope-Sutherland, 19, had PTSD after being raped at 16
- Coroner told jurors she was upset at Dorset Police not to charge the man in 2014
- He was subsequently jailed for s*xual offences committed against other people
- But was due to be freed in 2017 before Gaia went missing during that November