Gaia Pope, the Dorset teenager whose disappearance sparked a high-profile police inquiry, died from hypothermia, an inquest has heard.
Pope’s body was found by police search teams in undergrowth between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point, close to the Swanage coastal path, on 18 November, 11 days after she was reported missing by her family.
Following the discovery, her family said she had been struggling with a “lot of issues” and they wanted to know more about the circumstances of her death.
During the police investigation into her disappearance, three people were arrested and later released without charge.
At the opening of the inquest at Bournemouth town hall on Tuesday, the Dorset coroner, Rachael Griffin, said: “I am aware the family have a number of concerns in relation to Gaia’s death and some of those will be very relevant to my inquiry but some will not be. It is not that I am unsympathetic to those concerns but they simply fall outside my remit.”
The coroner’s officer Andrew Lord said a pathologist, Dr Russell Delaney, was initially unable to establish a cause of death but later determined that Pope had died from hypothermia.
“Following the results of the postmortem examination, police have confirmed they are no longer treating the death as suspicious,” Lord said. He confirmed to the coroner that the police did not believe there was any third-party involvement in her death.
Griffin said she would be requesting statements from Pope’s family, her GP, the Dorset Healthcare University NHS foundation trust, Dorset police and Prof Matthew Walker, a neurologist from University College London who provided care to Pope.
“It has been brought to my attention that there are some concerns in relation to care provided by social services,” the coroner said. “I will request a statement from Dorset county council in relation to that contact with Gaia.”
She adjourned the hearing until 14 May for a pre-inquest review and did not fix a date for the inquest to resume.
Pope’s cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann, who attended the hearing, said afterwards: “It was just a few days ago that the family received confirmation that Gaia died of hypothermia and our hearts broke all over again. Dealing with their shock and grief, Gaia’s parents, Natasha and Richard, and her sisters Clara and Maya couldn’t be here today. But they wanted me to thank all our loved ones whose loyalty and support keeps us going as we try to make sense of our sudden and terrible loss.”
She also thanked the police, coastguard and members of the public who helped in the search for her cousin. “Without the incredible grassroots efforts of our community, perhaps we would never have found her at all,” she said. “Each one of you made a difference and we are grateful to know that still we can count on your support.”