Media Media releases Gaia Pope family appeal for information on anniversary of teenager's disappearance This press release was issued by JusticeforGaia 7 November 2018 On the anniversary of her disappearance, Gaia's family appeals to members of the public to come forward with any relevant information. The family is also convening an art project in her memory and to highlight the crisis in service provision for rape survivors and young people with mental ill health. The inquest into Gaia's death has been postponed until March 2018 while the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) probe Dorset Police's response, both to her disappearance in November 2017 and her prior rape case. The family welcomed both investigations and look forward to the outcome. Natasha Pope, Gaia’s mother, says: "This year has been more painful than words can say. Sometimes I can't believe I have survived it, but with my every breath I love and demand justice for my daughter. Since the Me Too, we have seen a rising movement for the rights of women and girls. Change is coming.” Marienna Pope-Weidemann, Gaia's cousin, says: "When she was missing, it was the support and dedication from the public that kept us going. You gave us hope that we would find Gaia. A year after her death, we must call on you again to help us find justice for her. We can't do this without you. If you know anything that might aid the investigation into Gaia's rape case or the missing persons investigation and help us learn the truth, please come forward; not just for Gaia's sake, but for the sake of anyone else who might be at risk." Harriet Wistrich, award-winning civil rights lawyer and co-founder of the Centre for Women's Justice who is representing the family, says: "Nothing will dull the pain for those who loved her on the first anniversary of Gaia’s death, but the Justice for Gaia campaign represents their hope that something good can come from this, shining a light on failures by the police and demanding better from the police in the investigation of crimes of sexual violence." Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST, says: “Already one year on from Gaia’s disappearance, it is important that her family see a prompt and robust investigation. There has never been greater disquiet about victims of sexual violence being failed by statutory agencies. There is a clear link between the trauma of rape and mental ill health. The longer the delay in identifying any systemic failings, the greater the risk of more young women like Gaia dying.” Emily Fields of Sisters Uncut says: "Gaia's story shows the devastating impact that being poorly treated by the criminal justice system can have after sexual violence. Survivors need support not suspicion. That's why we're fighting data gathering policies that further traumatise those reporting abuse." Gaia’s family have organised #ArtForGaia, a creative project in Gaia’s memory, which is being followed by BBC News. With the inquest postponed, they say the project is a chance to show that Gaia won’t be forgotten – however long it takes – and create a forum for others affected by sexual violence and mental health issues to share their experiences through creative work. In addition, the family are appealing for artwork from Gaia's friends and anyone who was involved in the search for her as well as the wider public. People are being invited to photograph their work, submit it via the website and share it on twitter with the hashtag #ArtForGaia. Find out more at www.justiceforgaia.com/artforgaia Press Contacts For further information, interview requests and to register your interest, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected] cc'ing [email protected] Please respect the privacy of Gaia’s family and friends at this time and ensure all press enquiries go through the stated channels. You can follow Gaia’s family campaign for justice on Facebook as well as via Instagram and twitter @JusticeForGaia Notes to Editors Gaia was reported missing on 7 November 2017 in Swanage, Dorset by a family member. Her family communicated their concern for the missing teenager, who had Post Traumatic Stress disorder, following a serious sexual assault when she was 17. Gaia had epilepsy and did not have her medication when she went missing. Following a police investigation and a public search for Gaia in which thousands of people participated, her body was found 11 days after her disappearance. The coroner announced in February that her cause of death was hypothermia. In the months before her death, Gaia was increasingly afraid that the man who raped her and threatened her family would soon be eligible for early release. In addition to concerns about the conduct of the police, the family have questions about whether a lack of support from underfunded mental health and social services contributed to Gaia’s death. Justice For Gaia: www.justiceforgaia.com Exclusive interview on anniversary with Gaia’s twin sister (BBC England) : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-dorset-46100284/gaia-pope-s-twin-sister-calls-for-justice Interview about #ArtForGaia (BBC Radio Solent): https://youtu.be/X6YVPgUqbb0 Prior press coverage on Gaia's story: https://justiceforgaia.com/press INQUEST has been working with the family of Gaia Pope since January 2018. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Sarah Kellas and Harriet Wistrich of Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC of Doughty Street Chambers.