Gaia Pope inquest: police officer admits altering search logs | UK news

A police officer has admitted altering official logs relating to the search for the missing Dorset teenager Gaia Pope, whose body was found 11 days after she went missing.

PC David Taylor accepted that he added additional details to Dorset police’s logs after the 19-year-old was found dead in 2017.

Counsel to the inquest, Sarah Clarke QC, suggested that Taylor had “beefed up” the records to make the police search look better.

Taylor, who was the deputy police search coordinator, said he was wrong to have altered the log but claimed he had done it not to deceive but to try to provide a fuller picture of what happened.

He added: “I wanted to bring all the information together. In hindsight, would I do the same again? Absolutely not. It was wrong. It doesn’t look great, and I apologise for that.”

Pope, who had severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder after she was allegedly raped, went missing on 7 November 2017. The college student was eventually found in dense undergrowth on a clifftop near a beauty spot called Dancing Ledge, having died of hypothermia, the inquest in Bournemouth has heard.

Among the details Taylor added was a note that a search helicopter may not have found the teenager because of “pockets of dense vegetation”.

Clarke put to the officer: “By the time you added that retrospective entry you knew she had been found. It may be said that the final version of this log was deliberately made to look like it was contemporaneous when it wasn’t.

“By adding those entries, you have improved it. You haven’t told anybody that you have entered this after the fact. You never said you added a number of retrospective entries until the issue came to light in the middle of this inquest.

“Being frank about it, it is one of the first lessons of police school – taking the example of a pocket book, if you want to go back and add a note, you are taught to give a star and say it is a retrospective entry.

“You were making additions to the log. It might be suggested that you beefed it up and made it look better than it was.”

Taylor said: “I can understand why the inference would be drawn.”

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Police officers have admitted a string of failings and missed chances over the search. An officer who was disciplined about the search, said a number of mistakes were made on the night Pope went missing, including not deploying two officers who had been available to search for her and not handing over the case to other officers at the end of his shift.

The inquest jury had heard that Pope’s family repeatedly urged police to search the Dancing Ledge area but felt officers focused on other places. It has also been claimed that police investigating the rape allegation advised her against pursuing the case, telling her: “We don’t think there is any chance of it being successful and it would be very traumatic.”

The inquest continues.

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