Police arrest 49-year-old man on suspicion of murdering missing teenager Gaia Pope

Matilda Long
Police have arrested a 49-year-old man on suspicion of murdering missing teenager Gaia Pope
Police have arrested a 49-year-old man on suspicion of murdering missing teenager Gaia Pope

A 49-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering missing teenager Gaia Pope, Dorset police have confirmed.

The suspect, who is believed to have known Gaia, was arrested on Thursday afternoon.

Detectives investigating the case revealed that ‘items of women’s clothing’ were found by a member of the public in a field earlier today.

The owner of the clothes has not yet been identified, but detectives have informed Miss Pope’s family of the find, the force said.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Devoto, who is leading the investigation, said: ‘Following the discovery of these items of clothing, a full and thorough search will now take place in the field and surrounding area.’

A major enquiry has been underway to trace the 19-year-old since she went missing from the Swanage area of Dorset on the afternoon of 7 November.

Forensic officers at work on a stretch of coastline near Swanage (PA Images)
Forensic officers at work on a stretch of coastline near Swanage (PA Images)
A police team searches a mill pond in Swanage (PA Images)
A police team searches a mill pond in Swanage (PA Images)

Police have been carrying out forensic examinations of two properties in the Swanage area, as well as searches of land around the town.

The force released two CCTV images of the teenager taken on the day of her disappearance inside St Michael’s Garage in Swanage when she bought an ice cream.

CCTV dated 7/11/2017 of Gaia Pope taken less than an hour before she disappeared (PA Images)
CCTV dated 7/11/2017 of Gaia Pope taken less than an hour before she disappeared (PA Images)

Gaia was being driven between Langton Matravers and Swanage by a family member when they stopped off for fuel at around 2.55pm.

The last confirmed sighting of Gaia was at an address in Manor Gardens on Morrison Road in Swanage at about 4pm.

The black jacket Gaia was wearing in the CCTV images was recovered from an address in Manor Gardens.

Forensic investigations are continuing at two properties in Manor Gardens, which are believed to be the homes of a 71-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man. Three vehicles have been seized.

They were released under investigation on Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of murder by police the previous day.

A missing persons poster for Gaia Pope (PA Images)
A missing persons poster for Gaia Pope (PA Images)

Gaia’s mother Natasha appealed for the public’s help in finding her daughter earlier today.

She wrote on Facebook: ‘Backs of vans, in garages, somewhere she could be hidden, against her will. In a house …… keep looking , be bold with respect. Thank you. Keep senses sharp. HELP US BRING HER BACK,! Can’t bear it …’

Ms Pope also thanked people who have been organising searches for her daughter in the Wimborne area.

‘Deepest gratitude and thanks. Desperation accumulative. Keep our heads and never give up,” she wrote.

‘We all need Gaia back so she can follow through on her life plan. Her talents are cross the board. Society stands to gain massively by getting her back.

‘Gaia is dynamic fun, exceptionally intelligent compassionate and loving. Gaia is special indeed, so we best crack on discover the truth of things so we may bring her home very soon.’