Tragic teenager Gaia Pope-Sutherland was reluctant to give up cannabis despite its potential adverse effects on her mental health, an inquest heard today has heard.
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 atop a cliff in the undergrowth following her death in ‘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 atop a cliff in the undergrowth. She had died of hypothermia.
Dorset Coroner’s Court heard the teenager, who suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder, had experienced ‘continuous manic episodes’ since October 22.
She suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder following an alleged rape by a man who spiked her drink.
Although the man was never prosecuted for offenses against Miss Pope-Sutherland, she was concerned about his imminent release from prison after being convicted of offenses against others.
She had been severed 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 released from a psychiatric hospital.
But psychiatrists had discovered that his use of cannabis worsened his feelings of confusion after his epileptic seizures.
Miss Pope-Sutherland had between five and 10 small seizures a day and also suffered more severe ‘tonic-clonic’ seizures, which landed her in hospital.
Psychiatrists had found that Ms Pope-Sutherland’s cannabis use made her feelings of confusion after her seizures worse. [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 severe ‘tonic-clonic’ seizures, which landed her in hospital
Louise Welsh, a senior mental health nurse with the local community mental health team, who arranged 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.
Testifying on Wednesday, Ms Welsh said Miss Pope-Sutherland did not believe cannabis had any impact on her mental health and that it helped her sleep.
“We discussed the risk that 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 had any impact on her mental state.”
Ms Welsh said she would have told Miss Pope-Sutherland about services to help her quit smoking, but added that such 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 experienced ‘continuous manic episodes’ since October 22, 2017. Pictured: Gaia’s last photo from the day she disappeared
Pictured: Police during the search for Gaia Pope. Dorset Coroner’s Court heard Miss Pope-Sutherland, who suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder, had experienced ‘continuous manic episodes’ since October 22
She added that Miss Pope-Sutherland’s GP could also have referred her to services to stop using cannabis.
“Sometimes you have to wait for the person to be ready, we have to wait for that person to recognize that (cannabis) might not be helpful for their health and well-being and make a conscious decision to make that change,” a- she declared.
“I was very confident that she was very clear that she didn’t think it had any impact on her mental state.”
The witness said that although Miss Pope-Sutherland had been in a mental health crisis a few weeks before, it was not surprising that she did not need additional support.
“If I had visited Gaia at home and felt her mental state had changed or her risk had changed or additional support was needed, she would have been offered this,” Ms Welsh said. .
She added that Miss Pope-Sutherland did not show signs of distress or bad temper, had good eye contact and did not display 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 atop a cliff in the undergrowth. She had died of hypothermia
Ms Pope-Sutherland’s family are attending the Dorset Coroner’s Court inquest. Pictured: Gaia’s mother Natasha Pope (front center), father Richard Sutherland (rear center right), cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann (third left), twin sister Maya Pope-Sutherland (jacket red at the back) and sister Clara Pope- Sutherland (center right – green jacket)
“I had no concerns about her mental state at the time, nor did she report any concerns to me,” she said.
She noted that at the meeting, Miss Pope-Sutherland suffered a mild epileptic fit during which she suddenly became very vacant.
“I asked her what she would like me to do and she said I had nothing to do,” Ms Welsh said.
Miss Pope-Sutherland said if it happened again, Ms Welsh should just call her friend for help.
Clinicians who assessed Miss Pope-Sutherland when she was readmitted to hospital with manic episodes in October 2017 are due to give evidence on Thursday.
The investigation is continuing.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE DISAPPEARANCE AND DEATH OF GAIA POPE-SUTHERLAND
December 2015 – Gaia, then 16, complains to Dorset Police that she was raped by a young man a year earlier.
June 2016 – Dorset Police tell Gaia their investigation is complete and they will not bring any charges against her alleged attacker.
February 2017 – Gaia, suffering from PTSD, is hospitalized under the Mental Health Act.
April 2017 – Her alleged attacker, who cannot be named, is jailed for unrelated sex crimes.
November 2017 – Gaia learns that her alleged abuser is to be released from prison and becomes anxious.
November 7, 2017 – Gaia must meet the police after receiving indecent images via social networks. She is kicked out of her family home of Langton Matravers in Swanage.
November 7, 2017 2:55 p.m. – Gaia is seen on CCTV buying an ice cream at a petrol station on Valley Road on the outskirts of Swanage.
November 7, 2017 3:40 p.m. – Gaia runs away from her Aunt Talia Pope’s home where she was residing at the time.
November 7, 2017 – 3:49 p.m. Gaia arrives at Rosemary Dinch’s home in Manor Gardens in a state of distress and confusion in search of her grandson and friend Nathan Elsey. Gaia then leaves and this is the last time she is seen alive.
Evening of November 7, 2017 – Gaia’s family reports her missing to Dorset Police. The police helicopter, fitted with heat-sensing cameras, is launched to search the coastal lands south of Swanage.
November 8, 2017 – Coast guard, police dogs and police helicopter join the search. The police are making a public appeal to find Gaia.
November 13, 2017 – Dorset Police say they believe Gaia was injured and have arrested a man and woman suspected of her murder. The pair is then released free of charge.
November 16, 2017 10:28 a.m. – A member of the public finds Gaia’s abandoned clothes in a field near Swanage.
November 16, 2017 – Dorset Police arrest a second man suspected of Gaia’s murder. He was later released without charge.
November 18, 2017 – Over 1,000 members of the public join the search for Gaia.
November 18, 2017 3 p.m. – Search parties find Gaia’s body between the South West Coast Path and a field near 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 that she died of hypothermia.