Officer said Gaia Pope’s family ‘taking the piss’ with pleas for help, jury hears
A police officer dismissed relatives of the Dorset teenager Gaia Pope as “taking the piss” when they made a series of desperate calls for help on the day she vanished, an inquest jury has heard.
Pope’s mother and aunt spoke to Dorset police in an attempt to confirm an appointment for the young woman to make a complaint over indecent images she had been sent. They explained that the images had triggered a severe mental health episode in Pope, 19, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after reporting being raped at the age of 16.
In one call played to the jury, a police constable can be heard telling a call handler: “This is the fifth call I’ve had. The last call ended with them talking absolute rubbish … I think they are taking the piss, to be honest.”
Pope, who had severe epilepsy, went missing from Swanage on 7 November 2017. Her body was found 11 days later near a local beauty spot called Dancing Ledge.
On Thursday Pope’s aunt Talia told the court that Gaia was “groomed” via Facebook before being drugged and raped.
Talia said her niece had flashbacks, and she recalled an occasion when Gaia was pacing up and down saying: “I’ve been raped. Why won’t someone listen to me?”
Gaia’s anxiety soared after another man sent her indecent images shortly before she vanished, her aunt said.
Recordings of two calls that Gaia made to police to report the indecent images were played in court. A call handler told her: “We will come and see you at some point. We can’t say when.”
On 7 November, Talia made six calls to try to confirm when police would speak to her niece, telling them the young woman was a rape survivor and was having a relapse.
On one occasion, a call handler could be heard laughing as she spoke to an officer when Talia was on hold. There was also confusion at one point because the police thought Talia was calling about a Gaia “Hope”. In another call, Gaia could be heard wailing in the background and her mother explained she was having a “relapse”.
Later, Talia said, her niece became “as still as a stone, completely locked in herself”. The teenager ran away from her aunt’s house at about 3.30pm and Talia made a string of calls to the police, reporting that her niece had mental health issues and had epilepsy for which she needed medication. She said she felt the police did not take her concerns seriously enough.
The inquest in Bournemouth continues.
• This article was amended on 13 May 2022 because an earlier version said Gaia Pope went missing on 7 December 2017. This has been corrected to 7 November 2017.