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Family's 'hearts break again' as Gaia Pope's cause of death finally revealed

The 19-year-old's family were told the cause of death a few days ago - they say their hearts "broke all over again" at the news

Teenager Gaia Pope died from hypothermia, an inquest has heard - as her family have described how their hearts 'broke again' at the news.

The 19-year-old was reported missing by her relatives from her home near Swanage, Dorset, on November 7 last year, the court was told.

Her body was found 11 days later by police search teams in undergrowth between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point, close to a coastal path.

Three people - a gran, her son and her teenage grandson - were arrested on suspicion of murder following Gaia's disappearance.

Gaia Pope's disappearance sparked a major police search (Image: PA)

Gaia's cousin, Marienna Pope-Weidemann, and Marienna's mum, Talia Pope, arrive at today's hearing (Image: BNPS)
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However, after the student's body was found, Dorset Police said a post mortem exam showed "no other person was involved in her death".

The trio were released without any further action being taken.

Today, Dorset Coroner Rachael Griffin opened the hearing into Gaia's death at Bournemouth Town Hall in Dorset.

Coroner's officer Andrew Lord told the coroner that pathologist Dr Russell Delaney was initially unable to establish a cause of death.

But following tests, he was later able to say that Gaia had died from hypothermia, Mr Lord said.

CCTV footage showed Gaia less than an hour before she disappeared on November 7 last year (Image: PA)

A police tent was set up after the teenager's body was found near a coastal path (Image: PA)

Marienna, pictured speaking today, has thanked the police, coastguard and members of the public who helped in the search for the teenager (Image: BNPS)
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He added that Gaia was formally identified by a "distinctive" tattoo on her body.

"Following the results of the post-mortem examination police have confirmed they are no longer treating the death as suspicious," he said.

Mr Lord confirmed to the coroner that the police did not believe there to be any third party involvement in her death.

The only family members present at the inquest were Gaia's cousin, Marienna Pope-Weidemann, and Marienna's mum, Talia Pope.

Speaking after the hearing, Marienna said: "It was just a few days ago that the family received confirmation that Gaia died of hypothermia and our hearts broke all over again.

Dorset Police said a post mortem exam showed "no other person was involved in her death" (Image: Internet Unknown)

The student had been reported missing by her relatives (Image: PA)
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"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 added: "Every minute without Gaia feels like an hour and every hour without answers seems endless."

Following Gaia's death, her family had said they wanted to know more about the circumstances, saying she had been "really struggling" with a "lot of issues".

The hearing heard the teenager's body was found in the undergrowth on November 18, following a massive search for her.

Marienna said: "The road is long but with your support we will get justice for Gaia" (Image: BNPS)

The hearing heard Gaia's body was found on November 18 (Image: Facebook)

Although three members of the same family were arrested on suspicion of murdering Gaia and later released without charge, the coroner confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances into her death.

She also confirmed she is to request a response from the police over their handling of the matter.

Ms 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."

She also said: "I will request a statement from Dorset police about the missing persons investigation undertaken and the investigation around the circumstances of her death."

Gaia's body was discovered between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point (Image: PA)

Hundreds of people took part in a search for the teenager (Image: PA)

Ms Griffin said she would be requesting statements from Gaia's family, her GP, the Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust and a neurologist she was under the care of, as well as the police.

"It has been brought to my attention that there are some concerns in relation to care provided by social services," she added.

"I will request a statement from Dorset County Council in relation to that contact with Gaia."

The coroner also said she would want an entomology report to see whether the exact timing of Gaia's death could be established.

She adjourned the hearing until May 14 for a pre-inquest review and she did not fix a date for the resumed inquest.

Gaia's family have said she suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder after an alleged sexual assault.

The student was seen running down a street before she vanished (Image: Twitter/@dorsetpolice)

Speaking today, her cousin Marienna said the family had a lot of questions to ask the authorities. But she thanked the police, coastguard and members of the public who helped in the search for the teenager.

"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.

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"Despite everything she went through, she remained loving, joyful and brave. Here was a bright and powerful young woman who wanted to devote her life to others. We will always be proud of her.

"We know now what took her from us but when, how and why are all questions that must still be answered, not just for our sake but for the sake of the next family who wakes up in that nightmare someday.

"We are hopeful that the inquest will find those answers. The road is long but with your support we will get justice for Gaia."