A POLICE chief said the initial ‘gold commander’ in charge of finding missing teenager Gaia Pope had not been fully briefed and was only given details by his PA, an inquest heard.

Chief superintendent Mark Callaghan took over the gold commander role from deputy chief constable James Vaughan on November 9, 2017, two days after 19-year-old Gaia Pope went missing from Swanage.

Mr Callaghan then made the report a critical incident and said it was a “missed opportunity” not having someone like him in charge of the case as soon as she was reported missing.

Bournemouth Echo:

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Ms Pope was found in undergrowth on a clifftop between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point 11 days later, on November 18, 2017, less than a mile away from where she went missing.

Her medical cause of death was given as hypothermia. Mr Callaghan was giving evidence at the inquest into her death at Bournemouth Town Hall on Thursday.

Mr Callaghan, who was detective chief superintendent and crime and justice commander at the time, was informed of the case on the morning of November 9.

He phoned Mr Vaughan, who has since become chief constable and subsequently retired from the force, while driving back from Bristol in the evening.

Having discovered Mr Vaughan was also dealing with a firearms incident in Devon and hadn’t been fully informed of the incident, Mr Callaghan took over as gold commander.

“Ultimately I can make more resources happen,” he told the inquest. “If there’s not sufficient resources, I can make clear directions. I have got the clout and while money was no object in this case, we are still public servants.”

Mr Callaghan updated the case logs and wrote in capitals: “This is a critical incident. The effectiveness of the police response will impact on confidence of the victim, her family and the community.”

Bournemouth Echo:

The officer said the case should have been a critical incident as soon as Ms Pope was escalated to a high-risk missing person at around 1am on November 8.

Mr Callaghan sent an email to all officers tasked with finding Ms Pope setting out a list of objectives.

They were: “Ensure the safe return of Gaia Pope, maintain confidence of Gaia Pope’s family to minimise risk to Gaia Pope’s family, maximise safety of any police responders, develop information and intelligence to locate Gaia Pope, conduct an investigation to understand if any criminal offences have taken place and maintain public confidence.”

He told the jury the delay in making the case a critical incident had an adverse impact on the “grip and pace” of the case, meaning it wasn’t properly commanded and timely investigated.

He added he’s never known a missing person enquiry with so many assets thrown at it, the case being “unprecedented” and the biggest he’s seen in his career.

The inquest continues.