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Our beautiful bird has flown, says Gaia’s parents in heartbreaking tribute

The teenager’s parents said she had been struggling recently and had a lot of issues to deal with.

The parents of Gaia Pope have spoken of the heartbreaking loss of their “beautiful bird” as three people arrested in connection with her disappearance face no further police action.

Richard Sutherland and Natasha Pope said they had many questions which needed answering but said the 19-year-old had been “struggling” recently and had a “lot of issues” to deal with.

The teenager’s body was found on Saturday afternoon by specialist search teams on land south of Swanage, close to where some of her clothing was recovered.

(PA Graphics)

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.

Mr Sutherland told ITV News: “As far as Gaia goes … I just think our beautiful bird has flown.

“She’s not with us now in body but she will remain in our hearts and with us forever, so while the loss of her in one way is immeasurable, we will treasure you Gaia, and honour you always.

“You’re not in pain anymore my darling. We love you. I love you.”

(Andrew Matthews/PA)

The teenager’s mother, Natasha Pope, said in a statement: “My beautiful Gaia, a true ‘Gaia’ spirit. A wise magnificent soul that burns far too bright for this world. Her spirit overflows with love and compassion for others.

“Gaia our free spirit, our wild pony, a light that will radiate for all eternity. Meet me at the gate my darling and so we are here longing for you for the rest of our lives. Together forever, united as one, your Mum always.”

Mr Sutherland and Ms Pope spoke after three people, two men aged 19 and 49 and a 71-year-old woman, who were arrested in connection their daughter’s disappearance were released by police without any further action being taken.

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

Mr Sutherland said his family wanted to know more about the circumstances of his daughter’s death.

Gaia's father Richard Sutherland (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“I think we know that she was really struggling. A lot of issues and she clearly just couldn’t cope with that,” he said.

“With the epilepsy she was just struggling badly. But right up into the end of her life there were still happy moments that she was having. It wasn’t as if she left us without some really wonderful memories of her.

“I want everybody to know that we fight on for the sake of her sisters. She lives on through her sisters and we fight on for them. We love you, we stick together, we will come through this together.

“For now, our focus is on remembering our Gaia. Holding her close to us. Looking after each other. Then maybe with a bit of time we can look back and see what things might be taken from it. But family first now.”

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