THE family of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope have today released Gaia’s Guide: a Community Organising Guide to Help Keep Missing People Safe, three years to the day since the 19-year-old’s body was found on a coastal path near her hometown of Swanage in Dorset.
Pathologists found that Gaia died from hypothermia and the inquest is due to take place in May 2021. Senior Coroner for Dorset Rachael Griffin has stated: ‘it is arguable that acts or omissions by Dorset Police may have been or were contributory to Gaia’s death.’
After her disappearance on 7 November 2017 Gaia’s story made national headlines with hundreds of volunteers joining the search and thousands taking action online, thanks to community organising efforts led by friends and family. Gaia’s Guide provides step-by-step guidance to mobilise and support a community response when someone goes missing, covering everything from how to search to engaging with the press and police. The guide is now available to download free from justiceforgaia.com as well as on the new Missing People website.
Gaia’s twin sister Maya Pope-Sutherland said:
“When Gaia went missing I didn’t know what to do, none of us knew what to do. We knew with public backing and attention the police would have to do something but I didn’t know how to get the word out. If it wasn’t for Marienna and all the volunteers I think we’d still be searching. We want to offer the guide so families know what to do. When someone you love disappears it’s hard to even think straight. Hopefully, Gaia’s Guide will help.”
Gaia’s cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann, who produced the guide, said:
“Gaia’s Guide has been a labour of love for her. Though in cases like Gaia’s community action can be the difference between life and death, shockingly there are no national police procedures informing families what they can expect. That needs to change. Meanwhile, going back over what happened hasn’t been easy but it’s worth it if Gaia’s Guide can help other families through that nightmare and bring even one missing person to safety.”
Remi Arnold, Family Support Manager at Missing People, said:
“It’s heartwarming to see something good come from such a tragic event. There is something very powerful about family members using their own experiences to help and support others. We’re pleased to include this brilliant resource on our website. Gaia’s family should feel proud of this great work; it’s a wonderful way to honour her memory.”
Jane Hunter, Senior Research and Impact Manager at Missing People said:
“Gaia’s guide is an amazing resource, not only because it’s so informative but because it’s been made with such thoughtful consideration towards the missing person themselves as well as those affected. What a great thing for her family to want to do to help others.”
Someone is reported missing in the UK every 90 seconds. That’s 180,000 people a year and rising. For example, there has been a 77 percent increase in London alone since 2010. Gaia’s Guide reports that people from low income or Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and those with physical or mental health conditions are most at risk, while government austerity cuts have crippled the health and social care services people rely on when at their most vulnerable, in time of illness, trauma or financial difficulty.