Gaia Pope death: police defend investigation as three people are formally cleared of any involvement

Ben Morgan
Three people arrested in connection with the disappearance of Gaia Pope have been released from police investigation without any further action: PA

Police today defended its investigation into the disappearance of 19-year-old Gaia Pope as three people who had been arrested were formally cleared of involvement.

Dorset Police today said no-one else was involved in the death of the teenager, whose body was found on Saturday afternoon by specialist search teams on land south of Swanage, 11 days after she went missing.

A post-mortem examination had not identified any injuries to suggest third party involvement and Miss Pope’s death was being treated as “unexplained”.

Detective Superintendent Paul Kessell, of Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team, said: “Following the results of the post-mortem examination and other ongoing investigative inquiries, we have concluded that no-one else was involved in Gaia’s death.

Tributes were laid by the seafront in Swanage (PA)

“As such we have today released from our investigation two men aged 19 and 49 and a 71-year-old woman, all from Swanage, who had been arrested and were assisting with our inquiries.

“I appreciate our inquiries would have caused these individuals stress and anxiety, however we have an obligation in any missing person investigation to explore every possible line of inquiry.

“The public would expect Dorset Police to fully investigate the sudden disappearance of a teenage girl.

Gaia Pope's father Richard Sutherland thanks volunteers during a search for his daughter who was later found dead (PA)

“Our aim was not only to find Gaia but to find out what happened to her.

“Gaia’s family has been informed of this latest development and our thoughts remain with all her family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.”

The 19-year-old man and 71-year-old woman were arrested last Monday and released under investigation after 24 hours.

A 49-year-old man, named locally as Paul Elsey, was arrested later but also released under investigation.

Miss Pope, who suffered from severe epilepsy, had not been seen for 11 days and her disappearance prompted a massive campaign from family and friends to find her.