The BBC are looking into the tragic death of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope in their brand new three-part documentary, Gaia: A Death on Dancing Ledge.


Gaia Pope was just 19 years old when she was found dead in Dorset in November 2017, 11 days after she went missing from her aunt’s house.

Fronted by former Love Island star Zara McDermott, the docuseries will delve into the case while zooming in on her family's search for the truth and justice.

We'll hear from those closest to the late teen, as well as the former police and crime commissioner for Dorset who worked on the case.

So, what exactly happened to Gaia Pope?

As Gaia: A Death on Dancing Ledge airs on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer across the week from Tuesday 25th July, here's everything you need to know about the case of Gaia Pope.

What happened to Gaia Pope?

On 7th November 2017, Gaia Pope went missing from Swanage, Dorset. She was 19 years old at the time and had been at her aunt's house. Just before running out of the home, Pope called her twin sister Maya.

Pope had previously been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and her disappearance followed an allegation of rape she'd made against a man when she was 16.

In December 2015, she reported to Dorset Police that she had been drugged and sexually attacked. In June 2016, she was informed that the man she had accused would not be charged. This man was subsequently jailed for unrelated sexual offences in April 2017.

Gaia Pope
Gaia Pope. BBC

Pope was then sectioned under the Mental Health Act in February 2017, and was admitted to hospital following a manic episode in October.

At the time of her disappearance, she had been suffering with anxiety after learning that her alleged rapist had been released from prison.

Pope's disappearance sparked a major multi-agency search and rescue operation. Eleven days after she went missing, her body was found between Dancing Ledge and Anvil Point along the Dorset coastline. She had died after suffering from hypothermia.

An inquest concluded in July 2022 that the teenager’s mental health and a lack of medical after-care probably caused or contributed to her death.

Following the verdict, her family said that had Pope been “treated with kindness and dignity”, she would still be alive.

Since her passing, Pope's family has campaigned to improve investigations around rape and sexual offences.

Gaia Pope documentary key art, featuring Pope and host McDermott
Gaia Pope documentary. BBC

In the documentary, Zara McDermott meets with Pope's friends and family to learn about the girl behind the headlines, and investigate the case further.

“I think as much as it’s important to tell a story of tragedy, because it definitely will hopefully capture the emotion, the important part as always, in any documentary that I make, is to see a little light at the end - regardless of how small or big that light is, just to see a little bit of light," McDermott said.

“Every documentary that I make, I want there to be that kind of ending where people feel hopefully something can change. In order for that change to be made, people watching the documentary can start to hopefully have those conversations, even just a conversation within your family - it might make someone open up about something that happened to them.”

More like this

Gaia: A Death on Dancing Ledge airs on BBC Three at 9pm on 25th, 26th and 27th July. All three episodes are available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.

Check out more of our Entertainment coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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