A year on from my cousin Gaia Pope’s death, we still have no answers | Marienna Pope-Weidemann


Today is a 365th day I’ve woken adult with a hole in my chest where my heart used to be. The 11 days my cousin Gaia Pope was blank before her physique was found felt like an out-of-body experience. We somehow mislaid a need to eat and sleep; zero in a universe mattered solely bringing her home safe.

The community-led bid to find her was a grassroots miracle, filled with adequate adore and energy to problematic that cold feeling in my tummy and a wheeze that pronounced what we all already knew: she would never have left us.

The press mostly call her “tragic Gaia Pope”, that we hatred not usually given it does her no probity nonetheless also given her genocide was not tragedy; it was travesty.

Gaia was my cousin, nonetheless we desired her like a sister from a impulse we initial hold her as a baby in my arms when we was 7 years old. As a woman, she was let down by a services we all trust will be there for us in a hour of need. She fell by a cracks in a complement and she died there.

First, she was let down by Dorset military when they chose not to prosecute for an purported rape that took place when she was usually 16. She is not alone in this: a charge and self-assurance rates for rape are worse now than they were 40 years ago.

‘The community-led bid to find Gaia was a grassroots miracle.’ Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

The tarnish and indignities she was subjected to as a survivor, along with a disaster of a military to make her feel safe, gathering her low into post-traumatic stress. She perceived usually a few weeks of predicament counselling from internal mental health services, even nonetheless we, her family, felt that she indispensable a lot more. Meanwhile, her mom was being forced to leave her to work each night, usually to keep a roof over their heads.

She is not alone in this, either: discordant to supervision rhetoric, mental health services have been decimated by austerity, nothing some-more than girl services. They accept usually 7% of mental health appropriation even nonetheless 75% of mental health issues start young, and sustenance in Dorset, where my family is from, is quite poor.

Eventually, her disappearing mental and earthy health gathering her initial out of college and afterwards work. Now it was a spin of a gratification complement to relentlessly survey her mishap and criticise her clarity of self-respect. She was forced to quarrel a extensive conflict for a personal autonomy payments (PIP) to that she was entitled.

Again, this isn’t usually Gaia’s story: a PIP complement has given been ruled “blatantly discriminatory” towards people with mental health issues and a good many people have died watchful for, fighting for or carrying given adult on a support they deserve.

On 7 Nov final year, triggered, we believe, by an occurrence of passionate nuisance online, Gaia upheld a indicate of her endurance. With no phone, no cash, no cloak and illumination fading, she simply disappeared. This was a final event for a state to meddle and save her life. We begged them from a initial impulse to hunt for her along a coastal paths we had walked given childhood. “If she was out there, we’d have found her,” one military officer told me. It took 11 days for them to find her physique there. By afterwards it was too late.

One year on we know really small some-more than that. The postmortem pronounced she was killed by hypothermia. we contend it was a genocide by indifference. Gaia was a child infantryman in a quarrel that has cost some-more than 120,000 lives in Britain alone given 2010. She was fighting to tarry and flourishing adult bad in a age of purgation and that is a bloody, tough fight. She battled bravely for her rights nonetheless also for those around her; she never once let go of her humanity, her creativity, her integrity to see a best in others. we am so profoundly unapproachable of her for that.

Gaia deserved better. All of us do. She deserved a possibility to do her intensity and give behind to her village all a bravery and care she had to offer. It’s not usually her desired ones who have been attacked of someone precious, and a internal village knows that.

Gaia deserved a possibility to see a world, to tumble in love, to have a family of her own. All that was taken from her – from us – and we wish probity for that. But we also wish probity for those left behind: a one in 5 women and girls who have endured passionate assault in this country; a 70% of immature people with mental health hurdles not receiving correct support; a large families adult and down a nation who have been sacrificed on a tabernacle of austerity; a lives not nonetheless lost, precious, value fighting for.

The universe is a darker place though Gaia, nonetheless she still lights a way. We honour her memory when we quarrel for probity for her and for a improved universe that she believed in. In that sense, with support from and as partial of a most wider transformation for amicable justice, she will delight yet.

Marienna Pope-Weidemann is a cousin of Gaia Pope who was reported blank on 7 Nov 2017 in Swanage, Dorset. Following a military review and a open search, her physique was found 11 days after her disappearance. The coroner announced in Feb that her means of genocide was hypothermia. More sum during justiceforgaia.com


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