Gaia Missing Girl, Tagic Death – Gaia Pope-Sutherland’s tragic death in 2017 is the subject of a new BBC documentary titled “Gaia: A Death on Dancing Ledge.” The three-part series, presented by Zara McDermott, aims to shed light on the circumstances surrounding Gaia’s death and examine the failings of officials, including the police and healthcare professionals, involved in her care.
Gaia was a 19-year-old teenager from Swanage, Dorset, when she died in November 2017. The documentary will explore the events leading up to her death and raise questions about whether enough was done to protect and support Gaia and other young women and girls in the area. It will also address the need for change in the future to prevent similar tragedies.
In the series, Zara McDermott speaks directly to Gaia’s family and friends, as well as individuals connected to the case. The documentary provides a platform for Gaia’s story to be told comprehensively to a TV audience for the first time.
Gaia’s family, including her older sister Clara, twin sister Maya, mother Kim, and father Richard, expressed their hopes that the documentary will contribute to the change Gaia needed. They want young people and survivors to know that they are not alone and that there are organizations and individuals who will listen to and support them. They emphasize the importance of speaking up and holding authorities accountable for the perpetuation of rape culture in society.
Zara McDermott, the presenter and documentary maker, was deeply affected by Gaia’s story when she first heard about her disappearance in 2017. McDermott, who was the same age as Gaia, felt a strong connection and a desire to give Gaia a voice through the documentary. She spent a year and a half in Dorset investigating Gaia’s story alongside her family, uncovering significant information about her life and the circumstances surrounding her death.
Gaia was reported missing on November 7, 2017, in Swanage, triggering a massive search involving the police, coastguard, search and rescue teams, and members of the public. Her body was discovered by the police on November 18 in undergrowth near Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point, close to the Swanage coastal path. An inquest in 2022 concluded that Gaia, who was experiencing a mental health crisis, died from hypothermia after running away from home.
Following the inquest, Gaia’s family criticized Dorset Police, stating that they had failed Gaia for two years, both when she reported being raped and when she initially went missing. The family expressed their frustration with British policing and the lack of public confidence in the system. Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Farrell acknowledged the failings in Dorset Police’s response to Gaia’s disappearance but stated that those failings did not cause or contribute to her death. The police force committed to acting swiftly on any further lessons learned and recognized the need for better management of missing person inquiries.
The documentary aims to bring attention to the flaws in the system, the importance of supporting survivors, and the need for accountability in preventing similar tragedies. It will be aired on BBC Three and iPlayer on July 25, providing a platform for Gaia’s story and potentially sparking discussions and changes in society.