Police officer in Gaia Pope search ‘missed opportunities’, jury told | UK news

A police officer who was disciplined over the search for the Dorset teenager Gaia Pope has told her inquest jury that he made a number of mistakes on the night she went missing.

Sean Mallon was acting up as a sergeant when he was made aware the 19-year-old had been reported missing on 7 November 2017, Dorset coroner’s court heard.

He told the jury there were two police officers available he should have deployed to search for Pope and also conceded that he did not hand over the case to other officers at the end of his shift. The teenager’s body was found 11 days later in undergrowth on a clifftop. A postmortem examination found she had died of hypothermia.

Mallon was subject to disciplinary proceedings – held behind closed doors – over Pope’s disappearance and given a final warning but has since retired from Dorset police. He is the only officer that the jury has heard has faced a misconduct hearing.

Questioned by the senior coroner Rachael Griffin, Mallon said he “didn’t do anything in relation to Gaia’s case” and accepted there were a number of “missed opportunities” to find her that night and into the next day because of his inaction.

Mallon claimed he had not known at the time Pope suffered from epilepsy, had post-traumatic stress disorder, and had previously made an allegation of rape.

But the Pope family barrister, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, told him: “You were aware that Gaia was due to see her GP, and that she’d had a mental health episode that day. You knew she wasn’t very well, didn’t you?”

Mallon said: “Possibly, yes.”

“You knew she was 19. It was a winter’s evening. You knew, didn’t you, that this was a vulnerable teenager who was missing?” Gallagher added.

“I knew afterwards,” Mallon replied.

Mallon said he was aware the force had a missing person policy but did not recall ever reading it.

The inquest in Bournemouth has heard this week of a string of missed opportunities in the police’s search for Pope.

One of those involved, Insp Andrew Alkins, said it had been a mistake to initially grade Pope as medium risk and as soon as he learned of her disappearance in the early hours of 8 November, he raised the status.

“My view was it was the wrong grading. My view was she should have been placed at high risk,” he told the inquest, and agreed the lower grading was a “missed opportunity” for senior officers to review Pope’s case earlier.

The inquest continues.

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