We are a family, fighting for the truth about what happened to our beloved Gaia. We want justice for her death and for all those impacted by sexual violence and austerity.
Gaia was bright, brave, kind, creative and fiercely loyal to those she loved. The challenges she faced as a young woman living with epilepsy and as a survivor of sexual violence inspired her to pursue a career in health and social care. She wanted to dedicate her life to others and help transform a healthcare system she felt forgotten and neglected by.
The moment Gaia went missing on the 7 November 2017, we knew something was wrong. She was distressed and without her phone, wallet or medication. We reported her missing within hours. By sunset, friends were travelling from far and wide to help us find her and bring her home.
Soon there was a massive police investigation and a public search which mobilised thousands of people across the country. Gaia was missing for eleven days, before her body was eventually found within a mile of where she had gone missing, close to a coastal path. She was 19 years old.
In February 2018 her cause of death was announced as hypothermia.
We call it a death by indifference.
After being raped at the age of 16, Gaia’s mental health declined and she suffered severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Following this, her epilepsy had deteriorated to become life threatening. While the police did not take up her case, her attacker – who we cannot name for legal reasons – was imprisoned for another sex offence. But she lived in fear of his early release, with little support beyond her close family and friends.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has ordered two investigations into the conduct of Dorset Police: one looking at the failed rape case and another at their response to her disappearance. These investigations will feed into the ongoing inquest into Gaia’s death, to discover exactly how and why we lost her – and what needs to change to save lives like Gaia’s.
The world is a darker place without Gaia, but she is still a light in our lives.
We who loved her, honour her memory by fighting for her rights and for the better world that she believed in.