Miracles can happen, says mother of missing teenager Gaia Pope
The 19-year-old has not been seen since November 7.
The mother of missing teenager Gaia Pope is not giving up hope that her daughter will be found alive – saying “I believe miracles can happen”.
Natasha Pope thanked members of the community who have been out searching the Swanage area for the 19-year-old, who has not been seen for 10 days.
The third person to be arrested on suspicion of murdering Miss Pope – a 49-year-old man named locally as Paul Elsey – has been released under investigation by Dorset Police.
Detectives said clothing found on Thursday on open land north of Swanage matched what the teenager was wearing when last seen.
Members of the public have joined the hunt, distributing hundreds of missing person posters, as a large social media campaign has been launched to find Miss Pope.
Volunteers are being asked to join mass searches of Swanage on Saturday. People are being asked to gather at midday at three separate locations to join line-searches.
In a message posted on the Find Gaia Facebook group, Natasha Pope said: “I believe in this community and I believe miracles can happen.
“I am holding onto hope, along with Gaia’s sisters and the whole family who are my strength. Please hold on with us.
“My eternal thanks to everyone who is out there searching for my little girl. Please come out over the weekend and do what you can. Every one of you makes a difference.”
Miss Pope’s father, Richard Sutherland, fears her epilepsy may have played a part in her disappearance as she had been warned by doctors that she was at risk of sudden death from the condition.
Mr Sutherland told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The doctors have said that she is at risk of sudden death from epilepsy, or sudden epileptic death. It’s pretty serious.
“One thing we’ve really tried to do is not to go off down every speculation because that can lead you to 100 different ideas with 100 different variations on everything.
“But it’s entirely possible that her epilepsy has played a big part in this and that’s meant it’s been more difficult to find her.”
Miss Pope has not been seen since about 4pm on November 7 in Manor Gardens, Swanage.
An hour earlier she was captured on CCTV buying an ice cream inside St Michael’s Garage in the town having been driven there by a relative.
She was said to be wearing a red checked shirt with white buttons, grey and white woven leggings and white trainers. The black jacket she had on 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.
The pair were released under investigation on Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of murder the previous day.
Detective Superintendent Paul Kessell, of the major crime investigation team, said: “Yesterday and today specialist officers and teams, supported by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue, the coastguard, national search advisers and the NPAS helicopter, have been conducting detailed searches and forensic examinations of fields and open areas.
“Our search area spans over many square miles of grassland, gorse, bracken and undulating difficult terrain and the public can expect to see officers continuing searches there for a number of days and beyond.
“The community will be aware that this rural area surrounding Purbeck is a wide expanse of challenging ground, much of which is exposed to the elements.
“In addition, the cliffs along the coast are dangerous and the seas can be unpredictable. While we are grateful to the public’s ongoing help, I would like to advise them not to put themselves in danger and to allow the specially trained experts to cover this area in a controlled manner.
“I would like to renew our appeal to anyone who may have seen Gaia in the area of Manor Gardens and south of Priests Way since 3.30pm on Tuesday November 7.
“Finally, and most importantly, our thoughts remain with Gaia’s family at this extremely distressing and difficult time.
“Specially trained officers continue to support and update them and their wellbeing is central to our actions.”