Dorset

Gaia Pope death: Any other victims of sex offender urged to come forward

Gaia Pope Image copyright PA
Image caption Gaia Pope's body was found 11 days after she went missing in November 2017

The family of teenager Gaia Pope are encouraging any other victims of a sex offender who she accused of rape to come forward.

The 19-year-old said she was raped by Connor Hayes in 2015.

Miss Pope was found dead 11 days after being reported missing from her home near Swanage, Dorset, in November 2017.

Dorset Police investigated her allegation of rape but decided to take no further action. Hayes was later jailed twice for sex offences.

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Media captionMiss Pope's family laid flowers to mark the second anniversary of her disappearance and death

The force is being investigated by The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over the way it handled the rape allegation and Miss Pope's disappearance.

In a statement her family called on any other "survivors of abuse by Connor Hayes and his associates" to come forward.

Miss Pope's family say post-traumatic stress caused by this alleged rape was "the crucial factor" in the 19-year-old's mental health challenges, disappearance and death.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Search teams scoured areas above the cliffs near Swanage in the hunt for Gaia Pope

Gaia Pope's body was found by police at 15:00 GMT on 18 November 2017 near a coastal path and field between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point, close to where items of her clothing had been found two days earlier.

In the statement, Gaia's family said the alleged rape "coupled with a denial of adequate mental health support" led to her death.

"We want rape taken seriously and the women who report it heard. We don't want anyone else to go through the trauma Gaia had to go through or the devastating loss we live with every day."

The family is urging any other victims to contact Dorset Police.

The force said: "We would always encourage people to report offences to Dorset Police so they can be investigated thoroughly and individuals can be signposted to the relevant support agencies."

Image caption Miss Pope's sister Clara Pope-Sutherland (left), her twin Maya Pope-Sutherland (centre) and cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann paid tribute in Swanage

In November 2018 Hayes was jailed for 21 months after pleading guilty at Bournemouth Crown Court to two offences involving a teenage girl.

The Crown Prosecution Service said he was released last month.

Hayes, from Maidstone, admitted causing or inciting a child aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity and causing a child aged 13 to 15 to watch a sexual act.

Dorset Police said Hayes was working as a webcam model selling videos and live footage of himself engaging in sexual acts at the time of his most recent offence,

During sentencing on 26 November 2018, Hayes was also placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years, and a previous sexual harm prevention order was extended to 2028 and amended to stop him from contacting girls aged under 16.

Dorset Police said he was jailed for two years in December 2016 after he admitted taking an indecent moving image of a child, possession of indecent images of a child and paying for the sexual services of a child.

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