Tragic teen Gaia Pope was 'reluctant' to quit cannabis before she died

Tragic teenager Gaia Pope had refused to quit cannabis despite fears over the drug’s potential effect on her mental health, inquest hears

  • Gaia Pope-Sutherland was reported missing from her home in Dorset in 2017 
  • Her body was found 11 days later on cliff tops after she died from hypothermia
  • Coroner’s court heard she had been experiencing manic episodes from October 
  • Teenager was ‘reluctant’ to give up cannabis despite its impact on mental health

Tragic teenager Gaia Pope-Sutherland was reluctant to give up cannabis despite its potential adverse effect on her mental health, an inquest heard today.

Gaia Pope-Sutherland was 19 when she was reported missing from her home in Swanage, Dorset, in 2017. Her naked body was found 11 days later on cliff tops in undergrowth after she had died from hypothermia

Miss Pope-Sutherland, 19, was reported missing from her home in Swanage, Dorset, on November 7 2017 and her naked body was found 11 days later on cliff tops in undergrowth. She had died from hypothermia. 

Dorset Coroner’s Court heard the teenager, who suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder, had from October 22 been experiencing ‘ongoing manic episodes’. 

She suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of allegedly being raped by a man who had spiked her drink.

Although the man was never prosecuted for offences against Miss Pope-Sutherland, she was worried about his imminent release from prison after being convicted for offences against others.

She had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act in February 2017.

On Wednesday, the inquest heard that clinicians concluded she did not need support in the community seven days after she was discharged from a psychiatric hospital.

But psychiatrists had found that her cannabis use was compounding her feelings of confusion after her epileptic seizures.

Miss Pope-Sutherland had between five and 10 small seizures a day and also suffered more serious ‘tonic-clonic’ seizures, which put her in hospital.

Psychiatrists had found that Ms Pope-Sutherland’s cannabis use was compounding her feelings of confusion after her epileptic seizures. [File image]

A map shows where Ms Pope-Sutherland lived, where she was last seen and the areas where her clothes and body were found 

Gaia Pope-Sutherland (pictured) had between five and 10 small seizures a day and also suffered more serious ‘tonic-clonic’ seizures, which put her in hospital 

Louise Welsh, a senior mental health nurse with the local community mental health team, who conducted a meeting with Miss Pope-Sutherland at her home, agreed with psychiatrists that she did not need ongoing care.

But she said she had discussed cannabis use with Miss Pope-Sutherland.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Ms Welsh said Miss Pope-Sutherland did not think cannabis impacted her mental health, and that it helped her sleep.

‘We discussed the risk cannabis can cause to someone’s mental state, including the increased risk of psychotic episodes,’ the witness said.

‘She was very clear with me that she didn’t think cannabis impacted her mental state.’

Ms Welsh said she would have told Miss Pope-Sutherland about services to help her quit, but added that these services preferred people to self-refer ‘because it shows their motivation for change’.

Miss Pope-Sutherland, who suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder, had been experiencing ‘ongoing manic episodes’ from October 22, 2017. Pictured: The last picture of Gaia on the day she went missing

Pictured: Police during the search for Gaia Pope. Dorset Coroner’s Court has heard Miss Pope-Sutherland, who suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder, had from October 22 been experiencing ‘ongoing manic episodes’

She added that Miss Pope-Sutherland’s GP could also have directed her to services to quit cannabis.

‘Sometimes you have to wait for the person to be ready, we have to wait for that person to recognise that (cannabis) might not be helpful for their health and wellbeing and make a conscious decision to make that change,’ she said.

‘I was very confident that she was very clear that she did not feel it impacted her mental state.’

The witness said that despite Miss Pope-Sutherland being in mental health crisis only a few weeks before, it was not surprising that she was not found to need further support.

‘If I had visited Gaia at home and I felt that her mental state had changed or her risk had changed or that there was further support that was needed, she would have been offered that,’ Ms Welsh said.

She added that Miss Pope-Sutherland was not showing signs of distress or low mood, had good eye contact, and was not displaying other red flags such as poor personal care.

Miss Pope-Sutherland, 19, was reported missing from her home in Swanage, Dorset, on November 7 2017 and her naked body was found 11 days later on cliff tops in undergrowth. She had died from hypothermia

Ms Pope-Sutherland’s family attending the inquest at Dorset Coroner’s Court. Pictured are: Gaia’s mother Natasha Pope (front centre), her father Richard Sutherland (back centre right), her cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann (third left), twin sister Maya Pope-Sutherland (back row red jacket) and sister Clara Pope-Sutherland (centre right – green jacket)

‘I didn’t have any concerns about her mental state at the time, she didn’t report any concerns to me either,’ she said.

She noted that during the meeting Miss Pope-Sutherland suffered a small epileptic seizure in which she suddenly became very vacant.

‘I asked her what she would like me to do and she said I didn’t need to do anything,’ Ms Welsh said.

Miss Pope-Sutherland said that if it happened again, Ms Welsh should just call her friend to help her.

Clinicians who assessed Miss Pope-Sutherland when she was readmitted to hospital suffering from manic episodes in October 2017 are due to give evidence on Thursday.

The inquest continues.

TIMELINE OF GAIA POPE-SUTHERLAND’S DISAPPEARANCE AND DEATH 

December 2015 – Gaia, then aged 16, makes a complaint to Dorset Police that she had been raped by a young man a year earlier.

June 2016 – Dorset Police tell Gaia their investigation has concluded and they will not be bringing any charges against her alleged attacker.

February 2017 – Gaia, suffering from PTSD, is hospitalised under the Mental Health Act.

April 2017 – Her alleged attacker, who can’t be named, is jailed for unrelated sex offences.

November 2017 – Gaia learns that her alleged attacker is due to be released from prison and becomes anxious.

November 7, 2017 – Gaia is due to meet with police after she had been sent indecent images via social media. She is driven from her family home in Langton Matravers to Swanage.

November 7, 2017 2.55pm – Gaia is seen on CCTV buying an ice cream at a petrol station on Valley Road on the outskirts of Swanage.

November 7, 2017 3.40pm – Gaia runs away from the home of her aunt Talia Pope where she had been staying at the time.

November 7, 2017 – 3.49pm Gaia arrives at Rosemary Dinch’s house in Manor Gardens in a distressed and confused state looking for her grandson and friend Nathan Elsey. Gaia then leaves and this is the last time she is seen alive.

November 7, 2017 evening – Gaia’s family report her missing to Dorset Police. The police helicopter, with heat-seeking cameras, is launched to search coastal land south of Swanage.

November 8, 2017 – Coastguards, police dogs and the police helicopter join in the search. Police make public appeal to find Gaia.

November 13, 2017 – Dorset Police announce they believe Gaia has come to harm and they have arrested a man and a woman on suspion of her murder. The pair are later released without charge.

November 16, 2017 10.28am – A member of the public finds Gaia’s discarded clothes in a field near Swanage.

November 16, 2017 – Dorset Police arrest a second man on suspicion of Gaia’s murder. He is later released without charge.

November 18, 2017 – More than 1,000 members of the public join in the search for Gaia.

November 18, 2017 3pm – Search teams find Gaia’s body between the South West Coast Path and a field close to Dancing Ledge near Swanage.

The area is half-a-mile from where the clothes were found.

February 13, 2018 – An inquest into Gaia’s death reveals she died from hypothermia.

Source: Read Full Article