Police officer involved in search for Gaia Pope-Sutherland, 19, tells inquest of his ‘huge regret’ at not finding her alive
A senior police officer involved in the search for missing teenager Gaia Pope has told of his ‘huge regret’ that he could not find her alive.
Chief Inspector Jim Beashel was responsible for co-ordinating the search for the 19-year-old when her missing person status was upgraded to high risk nine hours after her worried aunt first reported her disappearance.
罗林斯学院的一名学生, who had severe epilepsy, ran away from Talia Pope’s home in Swanage, 多塞特郡, on the afternoon of November 7, 2017.
The aunt called police at 3.41pm, reporting that her niece was ‘distressed’ and had run off, before a missing report was later opened by a call handler at 6.15pm
An inquest into Gaia’s death at Dorset Coroner’s Court today heard that Chief Inspector Steve White, the force incident commander, graded her missing person status as medium at 7pm.
“我没有选择任何东西, a police helicopter searched the coastal areas between Old Harry Rocks and Sandbanks, while a single uniformed officer searched for Gaia alone on the ground.
Mr Beashel took over from Mr White as force incident commander at 10pm, but was not passed information relating to Gaia’s case because she had not been deemed high risk.
He said he was not informed she was missing until 1.20am the following day, when colleague Inspector Andrew Alkins told him he had upgraded her risk from medium to high.
Gaia Pope-Sutherland (图为) vanished from the home of her aunt in Swanage, 多塞特郡, 在十一月 7, 2017
Volunteers and police officers pictured meticulously combing through grassland during the search for the teen
Ms Pope-Sutherland suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. 图为: The last picture of Gaia on the day she went missing
A specialist police search adviser was subsequently informed, with inquiries also made to see what available officers could be sent to Swanage to help with the search.
But Mr Beashel said he did not believe there was anything more he could have done on the night of her disappearance.
He told the inquest: ‘Like all force incident commanders, I take my responsibilities very seriously in terms of what we are able to do and to deploy resources to help people when they are in need is a real privilege,“ 他说.
‘It is of huge regret I was on duty at a time when I didn’t have the resources to be able to deploy in way that would have allowed us to locate Gaia a lot sooner.
‘We all have our duties to protect and preserve life and when we are unable to fulfil (他们) there is huge regret to me personally and, 我知道, my colleagues as well.
‘I can give lots of examples where I’ve managed missing persons investigations and had successful outcomes, and they are the types of incidents I enjoy running because it is an opportunity for us to make a real difference and save someone’s life.
‘It’s of huge regret it didn’t happen this time.’
On the night of Ms Pope-Sutherland’s disappearance, 曾经有 107 police officers on duty, but this dropped to 60 from midnight, 法院听到.
Mr Beashel said officers were ‘busy’ 处理 45 different incidents, including a firearms report and someone who had absconded from hospital.
A map shows where Ms Pope-Sutherland lived, where she was last seen and the areas where her clothes and body were found
Due to the time of night, CCTV inquiries were difficult and, as the missing teenager did have her mobile phone with her, location checks could not be completed, 法院听到.
The senior officer did, 虽然, agree with Mr Alkins’ view that she should have been graded as high risk at 7pm.
He described this as a ‘missed opportunity’ that delayed the response in looking for her.
Referring to the 10pm handover when he came on duty, Mr Beashel said: ‘At that time we could have made the decision whether we needed to retain officers on duty from lates and looked at the resources going forward and how many people we could deploy and what was necessary.’
Rachael Griffin, senior coroner for Dorset, 问: ‘We can’t say what would have happened even if those had been done but, from your point of view, they were missed opportunities?’
The officer replied: '是, and even when we took it on at 1.30am and raised to high, I would have expected better documentation in terms of the inquiries that had been completed, what searches had been done, to give us more information to where we could concentrate on.’
He told the jury that, even if he had known of the spot where Ms Pope-Sutherland’s body was located 11 days after her disappearance, he did not think officers would have been able to find her that night.
Mr Beashel added: ‘I obviously wish we had more information around that specific area, and we had at least tried with the limited resources I had available to check areas that had been suggested.’
And asked whether he thought he could have done more on the night, he answered: ‘I think I should have got better clarification from the initial officers going to see Gaia’s family of exactly any locations that are relevant to try and narrow down the areas we could have searched.’
Ms Griffin said there were limited entries on the police log of what actions he had taken.
The officer explained there was an ‘error’ when as he was making notes because he had flicked across screens to deal with another incident
他加了: ‘Regrettably on this incident I can’t show that because I fear that incident occurred.
‘I think it’s down to that error, (那) regrettably has occurred, because I did write stuff on there, but it has not switched across. I didn’t notice that on the log prior to going off duty.’
The coroner asked: ‘Is it not right that there’s no entry on there because all the things you are telling us about didn’t actually happen?’
Gaia’s mother Natasha Pope (front centre), her father Richard Sutherland (back centre right), her cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann (third left), twin sister Maya Pope-Sutherland (back row red jacket) and sister Clara Pope-Sutherland (中右 – green jacket) pictured outside the inquest last month
Mr Beashel replied: ‘They did happen. I had been in various conversations with Inspector Alkins and I know we had more resources than are shown on the message searching those areas.’
Ms Pope-Sutherland grew up in Dorset with her mum Natasha, older sister Clara, twin sister Maya and her cousin Marieanna.
At the time of her disappearance, she had been in a state of anxiety and was unsettled and erratic upon learning that a man she accused of raping her was due to be released from prison – where he had serving time for an unrelated offence.
Gaia had been also communicating with a man who then sent her unsolicited photographs of his penis, which made her ‘extremely distressed’ and ‘triggered’ 她的情绪.
On the day she vanished, the teenager had been due to give a statement to the police about the lewd images.
But she ran away from her auntie’s house in Swanage, where she had been staying at the time, and made her way towards the – a flat area of rock on the Jurassic Coast.
The inquest earlier heard how Gaia removed her clothes and scattered them in a field before she was found in undergrowth.
A subsequent post mortem examination concluded she had died of hypothermia.