Police 'confident' woman's body discovered on land is missing teen Gaia Pope
The body of a woman has been found in the hunt for missing teenager Gaia Pope, which police are "confident" is the 19-year-old.
The discovery was made on land south of Swanage, close to where clothing positively identified as Miss Pope was found on Thursday.
Miss Pope had not been seen since she vanished from the Swanage area of Dorset on the afternoon of November 7.
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Dorset Police said the discovery was made at around 3pm today by specialist search teams near the coastal path and the field where items of her clothing were located.
Detective Superintendent Paul Kessell, of Dorset Police's major crime investigation team, said: "Although the body has yet to be formally identified, we are confident that we have found Gaia.
"Her family have been informed and are being supported by specially-trained officers.
"Our thoughts remain with all of her family and friends at this very traumatic time. They have requested privacy and that we make no further media releases at this point.
"The coroner has been notified and further forensic examination will continue. This will guide the investigation in respect of the circumstances of the death which at this time remains unexplained.
"I would like to thank the community for their support and understanding while this large-scale investigation continues and their efforts in looking for Gaia.
"We have received a huge amount of support from the public who have contacted us with possible sightings of Gaia and items of found clothing.
"I can confirm that we have recovered all the clothing we believe Gaia was wearing when she disappeared and, with thanks, we no longer require the public to assist with searches."
The devastating news comes hours after hundreds of people joined searches on Saturday afternoon looking for the teenager.
Miss Pope's father, Richard Sutherland, joined volunteers who had come together to search areas around Swanage on Saturday afternoon.
Addressing members of the public who had gathered at Durlston Country Park, Mr Sutherland said: "I just want to say a massive thank you for coming out. It is very heart warming and the support gives us a lot of hope."
The mass searches had been organised by the Find Gaia group on Facebook and saw volunteers gather at the country park, near the main beach and to the north of the town looking for Miss Pope, who suffers from severe epilepsy.
Since she disappeared hundreds of missing person posters have been distributed across the county.
Detectives have arrested and released under investigation three people, a 71-year-old woman, a 19-year-old man and a 49-year-old man, named locally as Paul Elsey.
On Friday Miss Pope's mother, Natasha, said she has not given up hope her daughter will be found alive - saying "I believe miracles can happen".
In a message posted on social media, Ms Pope said: "I believe in this community and I believe miracles can happen.
"I am holding onto hope, along with Gaia's sisters and the whole family who are my strength. Please hold on with us.
"My eternal thanks to everyone who is out there searching for my little girl. Please come out over the weekend and do what you can. Every one of you makes a difference."
Earlier, Mr Sutherland said he feared his daughter's epilepsy may have played a part in her disappearance as she had been warned by doctors she was at risk of sudden death from the condition.
Miss Pope has not been seen since about 4pm on November 7 in Manor Gardens, Swanage.
An hour earlier she was captured on CCTV buying an ice cream inside St Michael's Garage in the town, having been driven there by a relative.
She was said to be wearing a red checked shirt with white buttons, grey and white woven leggings and white trainers. The black jacket she had on was recovered from an address in Manor Gardens.
Forensic investigations have concluded at two properties in Manor Gardens, which are believed to be the homes of a 71-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man.
The pair were released under investigation on Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of murder the previous day.