Gaia’s Inquest

Update: during the inquest we do not have time to update the website. For the latest news please follow Justice for Gaia on facebook, twitter or instagram.

Thank you.

Four years of waiting. Three closed-door reports, two from the Independent Office for Police Conduct and one from Dorset Healthcare Trust. And now, at last, time’s up. 🌈

The inquest into Gaia’s death begins on 26 April at Bournemouth Town Hall and will be open to the press and members of the public. Come along to hear for yourself and in support of Gaia’s family. 💞

📍 Where: Town Hall Annexe, St Stephen’s Road, Bournemouth BH2 6EA.

📆 When: We expect court to be in session every day from 10am Monday-Thursday, 26 April until 8 July inclusive.

This will be a painful and traumatic ordeal for us but with your support we hope the inquest can finally give us some answers about what happened to Gaia and what needs to change to save lives in future. ⚖️

📢 HOW CAN I HELP? 📢

  • Attend the inquest, which is open to the public, to hear the evidence for yourself and support the family
  • Share media coverage and posts on facebook, twitter or instagram to help raise awareness and encourage friends to follow us on social media
  • Take action online here to support the campaign

🕯️ WHAT IS AN INQUEST? 🕯️

An inquest is a formal investigation conducted by a coroner to determine how someone died. Inquests are held only in certain circumstances, such as deaths by unnatural causes or in the care of state agencies. It is an important principle of open justice that inquests are open to the public and to the press.

Inquests do not determine criminal responsibility but they can still be very important when it comes to defending human rights and the public interest. When combined with support from the public and local community, past inquests like those of Stephen Lawrence, Connor Sparrowhawk and Seni Lewis to name just a few, have helped pave the way for lifesaving changes to the law.

🌈 GAIA’S INQUEST 🌈

Gaia’s inquest will be held in front of a jury under Article 2 (Right to Life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. What is known as an Article 2 inquest is only held when the coroner believes there is a case to be made that the state bears some responsibility for the person’s death.

Senior Dorset coroner Rachel Griffin says: “It is arguable that acts or omissions by Dorset Police may have been or were contributory to Gaia’s death. I am satisfied there has been an arguable breach of the obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Not all inquests are held under Article 2 and even those which are often last just a few days. The fact Gaia’s is scheduled to last for 10 weeks reflects the complexity of this case and just how much important evidence has come to light that we can expect to hear about.

🌹 LEARN MORE 🌹

✨ To find out more about Gaia’s story go to justiceforgaia.com/about

✨ For all the latest updates, follow us on twitter @JusticeForGaia

✨ If you are a journalist who is interested in covering the inquest, please contact us at justice4gaia@gmail.com and ask to join our press list. Please respect the family’s privacy by only reaching out through Justice for Gaia.

MEDIA COVERAGE

📰 Gaia Pope: health workers ‘missed opportunity’ before death of Dorset teenager

📰 Gaia Pope: doctor tells inquest of ‘failure of communication’ within NHS

📰 Gaia Pope sexually harassed while on psychiatric ward, inquest jury told

📰 Psychiatrist tells inquest he regrets not giving Gaia Pope mental health referral

Inquest into death of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope to open (via INQUEST)

Opening 26 April 2022 (Sitting four days a week, see notes)
Scheduled for three months (to 8 July 2022)


Gaia Kima Pope-Sutherland, 19, was reported missing on 7 November 2017 in Swanage, Dorset. Following a police investigation and a public search for Gaia in which thousands of people participated, her body was found 11 days later less than a mile from where she was last seen.

Gaia had a history of mental ill health and was a survivor of rape. Her family have concerns about the response of relevant authorities to this, as well as the police response to her subsequently going missing.

Over four years later, following various investigations by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and others, the final hearing of the inquest into her death will open on Tuesday 26 April 2022 before HM Senior Coroner Rachael Griffin and a jury. This will follow a final pre-inquest review hearing the day before.

Over the following months of evidence, the inquest will examine issues surrounding Gaia’s death including:

  • Gaia’s personal and medical history
  • Gaia’s epilepsy treatment and management
  • The impact of the rape allegation on Gaia from 2015 onwards
  • Gaia’s mental health treatment from 2015 onwards
  • The events of 7-18 November 2017 to cover Gaia’s disappearance and the search up to and including the discovery of her body, with a focus on 7-11 November when she could possibly have been alive
  • Dorset police control room operations
  • The actions of Dorset Police officers and control room staff including the evaluation of risk
  • Training in relation to missing persons within Dorset Police

The inquest will also consider the missing persons’ policy, procedure and operations, as well as the response of Dorset Search & Rescue (DORSAR) and Coast Guard, and the memorandum of understanding between them and police. 

As well as examining the missing persons investigation, the coroner and jury will hear evidence from Gaia’s family and professionals involved in her care, and from expert witnesses on mental health and epilepsy. 

Gaia’s family describe her as a bright, brave, kind, creative and loving. The challenges she faced as a young woman living with epilepsy and as a survivor of sexual violence had inspired her to pursue a career in health and social care.

In a joint statement, the family of Gaia Pope said“For four years we have been left with questions no grieving family should ever have to ask. Our hearts are shattered to have Gaia taken from us in this way, before she ever got the chance to step beyond the shadow of what was done to her.

There are no words for that kind of loss, particularly not when we hear from so many other survivors that they are still denied access to justice and support.


We need to know if more could have been done to protect Gaia and so does our community, who worked so tirelessly to find her. These are matters not just of our private grief, but of public concern.

We hope the inquest will give Gaia the voice she so deserved in life and help save the lives of others in the future. As painful as it is for us, it’s worth it if it leads to the positive change she wanted.”

Sarah Kellas, of Birnberg Peirce solicitors who represent the family, said“Gaia’s family have waited four long years for this inquest to take place. It is hoped that they will now get the answers they so desperately need, and effect real change for the future.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, says: “Gaia’s death raises serious questions about the response of authorities to women in crisis, which go far beyond her local area. We hope this inquest will deliver truth for this family, and inform change to prevent future deaths and harms against women.”

This press release was issued by the charity INQUEST and is also available via their website.

Manifesto

The Justice for Gaia manifesto, which puts forwards demands around policing, mental health and social support, was created because four years on from Gaia’s death things have gone from bad to worse and thanks to outdated policies, devastating funding cuts and an unchecked culture of toxic sexism, lives like Gaia’s are still being risked and lost. 

The manifesto emerged from us talking to leading womens’ rights organisations, mental health experts and disability rights campaigners about what needs to change to save lives like Gaia’s. 

Essentially we are demanding that survivors get the support they deserve and that their voices are heard so we can all live in safer and fairer communities. 

Most of these demands aren’t new but Gaia’s story gives them new urgency because it shows how devastating and deadly the consequences of the current system can be.

  1. The Istanbul Convention

The UK government must ratify the Istanbul Convention for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls which will save lives like Gaia’s in the future. This legal framework to prevent violence, protect survivors and prosecute perpetrators, was signed in 2012 but still hasn’t been implemented. It would improve education and prevent further cuts to survivor support services by enshrining survivors’ rights in law. Click here to sign and share the petition.

  1. Public Debate

Meaningful public debate about state misogyny and the multi-agency failures ruining and threatening the lives of survivors like Gaia. 

  1. End NHS Demand Reduction

An end to “demand reduction” strategies which bring the police into mental health and criminalise those most in need of care and support. 

  1. Replace PIP

Replacement of the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) system with a just alternative co-designed with disabled peoples’ organisations. The current system has been linked to thousands of deaths and is extremely damaging to claimants’ mental health. 

  1. Operation Soteria 

Dorset Police must overhaul its approach to prosecuting sex offences by establishing a specialist serious sexual offences (Rasso) unit and adopting the evidence-based approach of Operation Soteria which should be rolled out nationally to focus police on investigating perpetrators more than re-traumatising survivors. 

  1. VAWG Policing Framework

Dorset Police must develop and publish a comprehensive plan to implement the National Policing Framework for Violence Against Women (VAWG) from the National Police Chiefs’ Council. The framework helps target prolific perpetrators like Connor Hayes; supports a call-out culture for sexism and misogyny in the police; and improves processes for hearing concerns, particularly those who have been most ignored, such as Black and minoritised women and those critical of current police practises. 

  1. Safeguard Our Community

An independent review of Dorset Police’s investigation and prosecution of Connor Hayes and his associates in order to safeguard our community and address any failures. 

  1. Safeguard Survivors in Hospital

A trauma-informed revision of local and national safeguarding policy for preventing and responding to sexual harassment and abuse in inpatient settings. 

  1. Independent Investigation of Mental Healthcare in Dorset

An independent investigation into the quality of care provided by Dorset Healthcare Trust with a focus on deaths under or soon after discharge from its care. Unexpected deaths of mental health patients in Dorset soared 50% in the three years before Gaia died.

  1. Funding Community Mental Health Support

Dorset Healthcare Trust to publish an update on how they are using additional funding provided under the NHS Long Term Plan to meet its obligation to improve personalised, trauma-informed care and access to psychological therapies for those experiencing severe mental distress.

  1. Answers About Gaia’s Care

A full and fearless assessment of the quality of care Gaia received and whether it contributed to her death.

  1. Answers About the Search for Gaia

A thorough explanation of why it took so long to find Gaia which addresses issues surrounding the initial risk assessment, interagency communication and other search issues. Appropriate action must be taken where procedures were not followed and action taken to make improvements where they fall short. 

  1. Accountability

Staff directly implicated in any failings in Gaia’s case must be referred to relevant regulatory bodies and appropriate action taken to provide accountability and ensure others are protected in the future. 

  1. Inclusion

Meaningful involvement for the family in all processes.

Dorset Police: Failing Survivors of Abuse


Dorset Police has one of the worst rape conviction rates in the country. Over the past 10 years, the number of sex offenses reported to them has doubled but the number of charges they bring has halved. Sex offenses are the most commonly reported form of criminal offense in Dorset but the force still has no specialist rape unit.

In 2020 they only pressed charges in 28 of the 782 rape reports they received and according to data obtained via a Freedom of Information request from Justice for Gaia, of 2058 sexual offences recorded by the Dorset Police 2019-2020, only 46 resulted in criminal charges.

We keep a log of relevant stories as they appear in the press. You can scroll through here and click the link to access the full story.

In Brief

Click here to access an interactive map of sexual and violent crime in the Dorset area. These are the most frequently reported crimes in many Dorset towns. 

In Detail

Content Note: contains descriptions of assault and sexual violence *

Dozens of Dorset Police employees working despite domestic abuse allegations

Dozens of employees are still working at Dorset Police despite being accused of domestic abuse, figures reveal.

The statistics, obtained in an investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and ITV, reveal more than 1,300 police officers and staff across the UK were reported for domestic abuse between January 2018 and September last year. This included 30 police officers or staff members from Dorset Police. Two officers or staff members received some form of disciplinary action as a result of the allegations against them.

Dorset Police 999 call over rapist’s behaviour before attack

In April 2022, Dorset Police were found to have no case to answer having been warned about a dangerous predator just hours before he raped a woman in a public street in Poole and no officers attended despite a concern for welfare report having been submitted.

A description of the man and woman was obtained and an incident log was created but closed a short time later by a supervisor. The 999 call was made by a witnesses who had been approached by Kyoybasha a short time earlier on the morning of September 5 last year.

She dismissed his advances before he switched his attention to the victim, who was aged in her 30s. After he “pestered, badgered and followed” the lone female for an hour and 45 minutes, Kyoybasha raped her outside a building near Pottery Junction in Poole.

Dorset Police officer touched female colleagues inappropriately

In January 2022, another Dorset police officer was found guilty of gross misconduct for sexually harassing female colleagues and “would have been dismissed by the force had he not already resigned.” An internal investigation established that between 2019 and 2021 he had made a large number of harassing comments of a sexual nature to female colleagues around the force directly in person and via messages, and sexually assaulted multiple women.

Dorset Police civil servant jailed for grooming underage girls online

A FORMER civil servant who worked for the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner has been jailed for repeatedly engaging in sexual communications with two underage ‘girls’.

Jason Rory Samuel Mumford, aged 47, thought he was messaging a 12-year-old girl named ‘Toby’ and a 13-year-old girl named ‘Paris’ – sending them videos of himself performing sexual acts and also inviting them to perform lewd acts on themselves.

Dorset Police superintendent found guilty of gross misconduct after claiming thousands of pounds of false expenses

In November 2021, a Dorset superintendent was found guilty of gross misconduct after claiming thousands of pounds of false expenses. Not a gender-based violence issue but still it doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it?

Dorset Police office to face gross misconduct charge related to Sarah Everard investigation

October 2021 – The officer posted details of an interview given by Couzens before he pled guilty to the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, which the police watchdog says may “have brought discredit on the police service and potentially interfered with the course of justice.”

Dorset Police officer jailed after strangling a woman to death 

October 2020 – The trial heard the injuries would have resulted from significant force to the neck for a minimum 10 to 30 seconds and possibly longer. As a “trained and experienced” road traffic police officer, Brehmer would have known Parry was seriously injured yet did nothing to help her, the judge said. He could not have thought, as he said in his police interview, she was “simply taking a breath”, the judge added. “You must have known that her body had gone limp after your assault on her. Before you walked to the car park entrance you must have seen how she was hanging half out of the car.”

Parry had “fought hard” against Brehmer, “if only for a short while”. Brehmer had stabbed himself three times with a penknife. The judge said he had sought at the scene to blame Parry for stabbing him, lying to police and others at the time. “These lies were in my view particularly serious,” the judge added, given Brehmer’s job. 

Dorset Police inspector Billy Bulloch guilty of gross misconduct

May 2020 – AN INSPECTOR carried out a “fundamental betrayal” to the public and policing when he abused his position as an officer to engage in sexual activity with members of the public and Dorset Police.

Hairdresser, 44, who was killed by her ex in her salon was ‘let down’ by police who took her phone and left her an easy target, coroner says

February 2020 – “The family of hairdresser Katrina O’Hara today slammed the police for their ‘serious failings’ that allowed her violent ex-boyfriend to murder her. Ms O’Hara’s three children said they will ‘always feel let down’ by police who they suggested had brushed their mother’s fears about Stuart Thomas ‘under the carpet’.” 

Married police detective, 41, is sacked after sexually assaulting unwilling female colleague in her own home and having ‘inappropriate contact’ with her

February 2020 – The most serious allegation involved the officer turning up at the woman’s flat unannounced where he sexually assaulted her. After being let in he grabbed hold of the woman, kissed her and then lifted her up onto the breakfast bar. He then removed her top and bra, touched her breasts and ‘dry humped’ her. The woman feared the detective would rape her.

Two Dorset Police officers found guilty of gross misconduct 

January 2020 – When the officers arrived they discovered the woman was at the address with a man who was prevented from contacting her and from being at the address by the conditions of a non-molestation order. The man was liable to be arrested if found in breach of the order.

The officers spoke with the woman and the man at the address and made the decision not to arrest forming the view that there was no risk to the woman. The police log report following the officer’s attendance at the address was updated by PC White with false and inaccurate information. It recorded that the man was not present at the address.

13 Dorset Police staff arrested between 2015 and 2019 

August 2019 – A study by Newsquest’s data investigations unit found that 13 officers or members of staff were arrested in Dorset between May 2015 and 2019. Rape, burglary and assault are among the crimes employees were apprehended over, the investigation found. However, of 13 arrests, nine cases (69 per cent) were dropped and the employee faced no criminal or disciplinary action.

Sharon Perrett murder: Police ‘stopped calling abuse victim’

June 2019 – Police stopped trying to call an abuse victim shortly before she was murdered by her partner because her phone was off, an inquiry has found. Sharon Perrett, 37, was beaten to death by Daniel O’Malley-Keyes at her home in Christchurch, Dorset, in August.

Thousands of police officers and staff ‘not properly vetted’

February 2019 – BBC 5 Live Investigates spoke to Yvonne, not her real name, who was a long-term victim of domestic violence. After her husband attacked both her and her daughter during an incident in 2013, she called 999. When Dorset Police came to her home, one of the attending officers began to groom Yvonne. “He said a beautiful woman like you shouldn’t be treated like this. He started texting me, complimenting me, he was very persuasive,” she told the BBC.

Yvonne and the Dorset PC had a sexual relationship over the next six months, but she says she felt taken advantage of and used. She ended the affair, but says the officer would continue to come to her home unannounced, wearing his police uniform.

“I felt threatened. He said if anyone found out, the court case (for her husband’s domestic violence) would have to start all over again.”

Criticism for Dorset Police over way it investigates some offences 

December 2014 – Due to a backlog of cases in the Safeguarding Referral Unit the HMIC believed this meant ‘potentially vulnerable victims were either waiting an unacceptable time for services or missed altogether’, and because of concern that the force’s definition of vulnerability was too narrow.

BREAKING NEWS: search officer “disciplined” as we call for wider change and mark 4 years 🌹🕯️🌹


🌹 Take action here
🌹 Catch up on the latest here

November 2021 marks 4 years since we lost Gaia. When we spoke out on 25th (World Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) about systemic failures in how the justice system engages with survivors, Dorset Police announced the “disciplining” of a Dorset Police officer involved in the search for Gaia, saying he had been given a “final written warning.”

The family was devastated to learn that these proceedings had taken place behind closed doors, denying us the right to be present, make eye contact, try and understand how things could have gone so wrong and perhaps to speak about the consequences, which left us with a lifetime of grief over an unspeakable loss that will never heal. We feel very let down. It’s another example of Dorset Police saying one thing and doing another.

#16days #16DaysOfActivism #16daysofActivism2021 #16DaysOfActivismAgainstGenderBasedViolence #OrangeTheWorld #JusticeForGaia #JusticeForAllOfUs

Press release: Anniversary Of Gaia Pope’s Disappearance Marked By Call For Connor Hayes Witnesses & Survivors To Come Forward To The Centre For Women’s Justice

  • The Centre for Women’s Justice invites confidential testimony from witnesses and survivors of prolific sex offender Connor Hayes. 
  • Hayes, from Bournemouth, was repeatedly imprisoned and re-released for separate sex offences after Gaia’s rape allegation against him was dropped by Dorset Police. 
  • Dorset Police has one of the UK’s worst prosecution rates for sexual offences, charging cases in just 46 of the 2058 recorded 2019-2020.

The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) has issued a call for anyone who was victimised by or witness to crimes committed by sex offender Connor Hayes to come forward. This marks the fourth anniversary of the disappearance and death of teenager Gaia Pope, who made an allegation of rape against Hayes in December 2015. The case was quickly dropped by Dorset Police however Hayes, from Bournemouth, was subsequently imprisoned, released and imprisoned again for separate sex offences

Hayes made threats against Gaia’s life and repeated attempts to contact her. Gaia’s family say that the trauma this caused alongside the police failure to prosecute her case and fears other women and girls were at risk, was a crucial factor in the teenager’s health challenges, disappearance and death. 

Despite an explosion in sexual offence reporting, nationally less than 1 in 60 rape cases lead to criminal charges. Even in this context, Dorset Police has one of the worst charging rates in the UK. According to data obtained via a Freedom of Information request (1) from Justice for Gaia, of 2058 sexual offences recorded by the force 2019-2020, only 46 led to charges. 

CWJ therefore joins Justice for Gaia in raising concerns around Dorset Police’s record on sexual offences and gender-based violence. Last year a Dorset Police officer strangled a woman to death and 2015-2019 13 other officers were arrested for crimes including rape and assault, while another Dorset Police officer now faces gross misconduct charges related to the investigation into Sarah Everard’s murder. The force is also one of 17 where concerns have been raised about their failure to establish a rape and serious sexual offences unit. 

A full inquest into Gaia’s death will begin in Dorset in April 2022. Senior Dorset Coroner Rachael Griffin has said: “It is arguable that acts or omissions by Dorset Police may have been or were contributory to Gaia’s death. I am satisfied there has been an arguable breach of the obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

CWJ, a legal charity that holds the state accountable for violence against women and girls, are supporting the Justice for Gaia campaign and invites anyone who has been a victim or can provide useful evidence about Connor Hayes’ sexual offending to come forward. Please email us at info@centreforwomensjustice.org.uk providing reference to Connor Hayes. 

Harriet Wistrich, co-founder, Centre for Women’s Justice, says: “The process of reporting rape and supporting a police investigation can be extremely traumatic. Most women who report do so to prevent harm to others. When police fail, this can be devastating. I have no doubt Gaia’s deterioration in mental health was at least in part caused by her learning of the extent of police failures that allowed Hayes to continue to offend. CWJ are happy to assist the Justice for Gaia campaign in their search for justice and to raise awareness of the impact of criminal justice failings in the investigation of rape.”

Marienna Pope-Weidemann, Gaia’s cousin, says: “Like millions of women across the UK we have lost faith in the police so we are deeply grateful to the Centre for Women’s Justice for providing a safe alternative for people to come forward. Now is the time to speak out against abusers and police failures. If you have any information about Connor Hayes’ crimes, please speak up. There is no justice that can bring our darling Gaia back to us but we will not sit back while a whole generation is failed by those meant to protect us. It’s time to make a change.” 

(1) Freedom of Information request data is available upon request.

⌛ 3 Years Today ⌛

Gaia disappeared three years ago today. As we mark the eleven days of her disappearance, a time that is so painful for the family, we want to thank all those those helping us make it through, especially George Julian, who’s helping people Get To Know Gaia this week and everyone who has shown their support over the years either by taking a solidarity picture, lighting a remembrance candle or producing some Art for Gaia. With each gesture like this, we feel less alone and find a little more strength to carry on towards truth and justice for her. Thank you.

To find out how you can help, click here.

Our statement outside court 🌹⚖️🌹 (Sep 2020)

At Gaia’s pre-inquest review hearing on 15 September 2020 we took two more important steps towards #JusticeForGaia and it’s the most we’ve been able to say so far about what happened to her. Here, Gaia’s twin sister Maya speaks alongside her cousin Marienna.

“We are determined to do all in our power to make sure your family never has to stand where we stand today, fighting for justice for someone who’s been taken from you and who can never be replaced.”

Huge thanks to our amazing legal team for all their hard work, also INQUEST, Rape Crisis and Centre for Women’s Justice as well as all the friends who came today or found a way to show support online. (Please keep it coming, it keeps us going…)

Gaia granted full human rights inquest!

6 February: Gaia’s cousin Marienna speaks after the first hearing, where we were granted a full inquest under Article 2 (Right to Life) of the European Convention of Human Rights, with a jury to examine the role of of Dorset Police and healthcare services in Gaia’s death. 🌹

The coroner said: “It is arguable that acts or omissions by Dorset Police may have been or were contributory to Gaia’s death. I am satisfied there has been an arguable breach of the obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Press release: we confirm the identity of sex offender Gaia accused of rape and call for other victims to come forwards

If you think you may have been a victim of Connor Hayes, you are invited to contact the family’s solicitor, Sarah Kellas, who can be reached via the civil rights law firm Birnberg Pierce on 02079110166.

For emotional support, the family recommend survivors call the Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999.

  • Connor Hayes, from Bournemouth, has been imprisoned, released and imprisoned again for separate sex offences since Gaia’s case was dropped by Dorset Police.
  • Gaia’s family say the Post-Traumatic Stress caused by this rape was “the crucial factor” in the 19 year old’s mental health challenges, disappearance and death.
  • Dorset Police has the worst conviction rate for rape in the UK, with 82 reports per conviction last year.
  • The inquest into Gaia’s death is on pause pending conclusions from two IOPC investigations: one into how Dorset Police handled her disappearance, another into their investigation of her rape allegation.

21 November: Gaia made an allegation of rape against Connor Hayes in December 2015, just over a year after her family say the rape occurred. Gaia then reported to Dorset Police, who said they had insufficient evidence to prosecute and discouraged the teenager from appealing their decision using the Victim’s Right of Review.

In a supporting statement, Gaia’s family say:

“We want to call on other survivors of abuse by Connor Hayes and his associates to come forward, either to Dorset Police or to our incredible solicitor, Sarah Kellas from the civil rights law firm Birnberg Pierce. 

Two years since Gaia she was taken from us, there are still countless unanswered questions, but what we do know is this. We know that Gaia reported she was drugged and raped by Connor Hayes. We know that she was denied justice and that this denial of justice, coupled with a denial of adequate mental health support, led to her death. We know that because of this, it is unlikely Gaia’s case can ever be prosecuted. 

But our idea of justice isn’t just about Gaia, it’s not even about Connor Hayes, it’s about about supporting survivors like Gaia the way they need and deserve to be supported. We want to do our part to keep women and girls safe in our community. We want those who may feel too let down by the system to report to the police to have somewhere else to go. We want support for survivors to improve in the South West and nationwide. 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.”

Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales says:

“Gaia’s story is a devastating reflection of how our criminal justice system and society too often fail victims and survivors of rape, sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence. Her family’s tireless efforts to seek justice for her and others who’ve been subjected to these traumatic crimes is an inspiration.

We agree with them completely that those who’ve experienced sexual violence and abuse need and deserve social justice, in the form of properly resourced, specialist and independent support, counselling and advocacy services, as well as a properly functioning criminal justice system. This must be an urgent priority for the next government.”

Today, Gaia’s twin sister Maya and her older sister Clara Pope-Sutherland, alongside Gaia’s cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann, gave interviews with BBC South Today and ITV Meridian. They called for others who may have been victimised by Connor Hayes, to come forward.

Though Gaia’s rape case was dropped by police, Hayes was later sentenced to two years in prison in December 2016, after admitting to taking an indecent moving image of a child, possession of indecent images of a child and paying for the sexual services of a child. Gaia’s family say Gaia was aware he would most likely serve just half that sentence and be due for release in the early part of 2018, a prospect which terrified her because she said Hayes had threatened to kill her and her family if she reported criminal wrongdoing on his part to the police.

Some time after Gaia’s death in November 2017, Hayes was released early, then imprisoned for a second time. This time, he was sentenced to 21 months in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of 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. On this occaision, he was sentenced alongside William Wright, the third man in his family to be convicted for similar offences. Connor Hayes was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years and a previous Sexual Harm Prevention Order was extended to 2028 and amended to exclude him contacting girls aged under 16. The terms of this order are not known to the family.

Family members involved in the Justice for Gaia campaign say they have have good reason, beyond Gaia’s own testimony, to believe that many other women and girls may have been victimised by Hayes and/or his associates. The family says it will never release further information out of respect for the victims’ right to privacy.

Monday 18 November marked two years since Gaia was found dead following an 11 day disappearance and mass public search. During the anniversary of her disappearance (7-18 November) supporters and members of the public have lit candles in Gaia’s memory, some shared on social media with the hashtag #JusticeForGaia.

If you think you may have been a victim of Connor Hayes, you are invited to contact the family’s solicitor, Sarah Kellas, who can be reached via the civil rights law firm Birnberg Pierce on 02079110166.

For emotional support, the family recommend survivors call the Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999.

The family also extend their deepest thanks to INQUEST, their legal team at Birnberg Peirce, civil society allies, friends, supporters and local community for their unwavering support.

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