THE father of teenager Gaia Pope said she felt “terribly let down” by police and their investigation into her disappearance was “poorly handled”.

Richard Sutherland said there was a “failure in intelligence gathering” after family members told officers multiple times to search the area where the 19-year-old was eventually found.

An emotional Mr Sutherland sobbed as he told jurors at Ms Pope’s inquest at Bournemouth Town Hall he “didn’t protect” his daughter after she was allegedly raped in 2015.

Ms Pope went missing on November 7, 2017 and was found 11 days later in undergrowth on a clifftop near Dancing Ledge.

Read more: LIVE: Gaia Pope's father says police investigation was 'poorly handled', inquest hears

Giving evidence, Mr Sutherland said: “The first major event was in December 2015 when she was suffering from the aftereffects of the rape, the sexual assault.

“She was struggling to communicate the thoughts and feelings and was so detached in a way that was so frightening.

“Gaia believed police should have pursued a more thorough investigation. As time went by, the stress it had not been pursued grew even more.

“When Gaia heard the case was not being pursued, she called me. It was clear she was incredibly disappointed.

“We can all see she couldn't shake off the attack and the lack of action.”

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Mr Sutherland said there was a “gaping gap” in mental health provision and the lack of follow up appointments in intensive cases.

He added his daughter felt she was “terribly let down” by police after the rape allegation was not pursued.

Speaking of the search for Ms Pope, he said: “The big issues relate to whether the police operation was well led and managed.

“Reports of Gaia going missing were not fully or properly acted upon.

Bournemouth Echo: Gaia's father Richard SutherlandGaia's father Richard Sutherland

“We learnt the officer who took initial calls did not follow procedure and did not log it in a correct manner.

“The search itself, I saw lots of dedicated people, but the interactions with the family liaison officer and senior officers involved were not so positive.

“One major concern, information the family gave in the early stages and the search on November 7, 8 and the location she was found, there's reason to suggest there was a failure in intelligence gathering by the police.

“All the family told police one of the most probable destinations was Priests Way leading to Dancing Ledge.

“Had police coordinated that search and more intensive search could have discovered earlier.

“Many days of needless suffering might have been avoided.”

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Answering questions from Rachael Griffin, the senior coroner for Dorset, Mr Sutherland said Detective Chief Inspector Neil Devoto had taken over the inquiry as he was “not happy” with the investigation.

Ms Griffin asked: “He told you that he had not been happy with certain aspects of the way that the search and investigation had been conducted. Is that right?”

Mr Sutherland replied: “That’s correct, which were his reasons for taking over.”

The coroner: “That is not accepted by Mr Devoto that he said that to you, you are adamant he did?”

He replied: “He specifically stated that. I am sorry to hear the man can’t recollect.”

Mr Sutherland went on to say he understood why family members were suspects in the investigation, but said it was “clumsy” when a large officer was assigned to “stand over me in the kitchen while I processed what happened”.

He said officers were “going through the motions” of liaising with them but “really they weren’t that bothered”.

He added: "My status as a suspect is one thing but their move was hardly endearing.

“In the name of Gaia, I hope we can say all we needed to know."

The inquest continues.