NEWS
17/11/2017 16:21 GMT

Missing Teen Gaia Pope’S Father Says Her Epilepsy May Make Finding Her Harder

The father of a missing teenager fears her epilepsy may have played a part in her disappearance as searches to find her continue.

Richard Sutherland said his daughter Gaia Pope had been warned by doctors that she was at risk of sudden death from epilepsy.

The 19-year-old has not been seen for 10 days and a 49-year-old man, named locally as Paul Elsey, remains in custody after being arrested on suspicion of murder.

A policeman seals off a field near to Durlston Country Park in Dorset (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Mr Sutherland told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The doctors have said that she is at risk of sudden death from epilepsy, or sudden epileptic death. It’s pretty serious.

“One thing we’ve really tried to do is not to go off down every speculation because that can lead you to 100 different ideas with a 100 different variations on everything.

“But, it’s entirely possible that her epilepsy has played a big part in this and that’s meant it’s been more difficult to find her.”

Search and rescue teams perform a search on the cliffs above the coast near to Swanage (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Miss Pope’s cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann said: “Gaia’s condition has been really deteriorating over the last six months to a year. She rarely gets through a day without a seizure.

“Sometimes they’re very small, she’ll break conversation for a minute or so and then she’s back to her old bubbly self. Other times they’re very serious – we’ve had to call the paramedics many times.

“Those bigger seizures are often accompanied with quite prolonged periods of confusion and disorientation.

“There’s been times when she’s not recognised us for a short time afterwards, not really understood where she is. That’s a big part of what’s made this case so complicated.”

Miss Pope has not been seen since she vanished from the Swanage area of Dorset on the afternoon of November 7.

(Andrew Matthews/PA)

The suspect – the third to be arrested in the investigation – is said to be from the Swanage area and is assisting Dorset Police with their inquiries.

Earlier police found clothing similar to that worn by Miss Pope when she disappeared, following a tip-off from a member of the public.

The owner of the clothes has not been identified but Miss Pope’s family have been informed, police said.

(Andrew Matthews/PA)

Detective Superintendent Paul Kessell has appealed directly to the public to come forward if they have any information or have had any contact with Miss Pope since she went missing.

Forensic investigations are continuing at two properties in Manor Gardens, which are believed to be the homes of a 71-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man.

They were released under investigation on Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of murder by police the previous day.

Searches around the Swanage area are continuing as police sealed off a field near Durlston Country Park.