A police officer disciplined for his handling of the disappearance of teenager Gaia Pope has admitted his failings during his investigation.
Former constable Sean Mallon, who retired from Dorset Police in April 2021, said he was ‘acting’ as a sergeant in Wareham on the evening of November 7, 2017 when Ms Pope, 19, has disappeared.
Mr Mallon and a PC, Jon Kuspert, were the only ones stationed in the area when Ms Pope’s family called to say she had fled.
Both officers knew she was due to attend a meeting at the police station this afternoon over allegations of indecent imagery.
At Dorset Coroner’s Court on Thursday, Mr Mallon said that while PC Kuspert had decided to go looking for Ms Pope on his own, he had taken no action regarding her disappearance, including failing to ask for additional resources to help find her, although he knows of two other agents in the area who could have helped.
He admitted to senior coroner Rachael Griffin that he “did nothing in relation to Gaia’s case”.
The Bournemouth Jury heard that when he finished his shift at 11.30pm, Mr Mallon did not speak to any other Ms Pope officers, even failing to hand over to the night sergeant who was based at Poole and responsible for keeping order in Swanage at night.
Sergeant Alexander Smith, who was stationed in Poole that night, said he had not received any transfer from Mr Mallon and that although there was no formal transfer process in place at the time, it was “understood” that information on any ongoing incident would be passed on.
Mr Mallon said he also did not instruct Wareham night shift officers to carry out a search for Ms Pope and said he ‘wrongly assumed’ they would know each other to go find her.
Ms Pope’s body was discovered 11 days later. An autopsy revealed that she had died of hypothermia.
Mr Mallon acknowledged in the hearing that there were a number of “missed opportunities” to find Gaia that night and the next due to her inaction.
He said: “I had no idea what I was doing was wrong at the time.”
When questioned, Mr Mallon said he did not know at the time that Ms Pope was vulnerable.
He told the jury he did not know Ms Pope suffered from epilepsy, had mental health issues or had ever made a rape allegation.
However, in a statement submitted ahead of the inquest, he said PC Kuspert told him Ms Pope was having a ‘mental health episode’ and that she was going to see her GP.
Family solicitor Caoifhionn Gallagher said: ‘You knew Gaia had to see her GP and she had a mental health episode that day. You knew she wasn’t doing very well, right?
Mr. Mallon said: “Perhaps, yes.”
“You knew she was 19. It was a winter evening. You knew, didn’t you, that this was a vulnerable teenager who had disappeared? Ms. Gallagher added.
“I found out afterwards,” replied Mr. Mallon.
Ms Gallagher continued: ‘Did you know that over time during the evening the risk to her was likely to increase? This is true for any missing person. You don’t need to know politics, it’s just common sense, right? »
“Yes,” Mr. Mallon said.
Mr Mallon’s solicitor, Mark Ley-Morgan, said his client had only acted as sergeant on four occasions before the day Gaia disappeared.
Mr Mallon said he had no experience or training in overseeing a missing persons investigation.
The previous witness, PC Simon Colvin, said he had been instructed to search a 300m radius from which Ms Pope disappeared the following day, but was initially given insufficient resources. He admitted it wasn’t a very well organized search and he couldn’t remember if he had a photo of Ms Pope at the time.
The investigation is continuing.