A young woman found dead after disappearing 11 days earlier was traumatised by the impending release of a college friend jailed on child sex offences and against whom she had made a police complaint.
Gaia Pope, 19, had accused Connor Hayes of sexual abuse after they had stopped seeing each other two years ago, the offender's mother said yesterday. Pope's body was found on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, on Saturday.
Police had dropped that investigation into Hayes, 24, but had prosecuted him successfully for persuading another girlfriend to take part in a sex video, which was then uploaded onto the internet, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Hayes was jailed for two years in April after pleading guilty to taking an indecent moving image of a child, possession of indecent images of a child and paying for the sexual services of a child.
He was due for release in the coming months, under rules that mean offenders serve half their sentence.
Pope's family and friends said the "traumatic incident" and fear of Hayes's release had made her "very anxious" and that could have triggered an epileptic seizure.
Pope's body was discovered on Saturday close to a cliff edge near Swanage in Dorset where she had last been seen on November 7. A post-mortem examination ruled out the involvement of anyone else in her death and yesterday police acknowledged the "stress and anxiety" caused to three members of one family arrested on suspicion of her murder.
Rosemary Dinch, 71, her son Paul Elsey, 49, and her grandson Nathan Elsey, 19, who were all dragged into the case, are threatening to sue police for wrongful arrest.
The inquiry into Pope's death will now turn to what triggered her erratic behaviour in the hours before she vanished.
Hannah Sutherland, her aunt, spoke of "a traumatic incident a couple of years ago" that led to "some people" being convicted, although "not for that incident".
Sutherland added: "And because of her epilepsy, prior to a seizure she could get very anxious and that was apparently part of what came out as some of the anxiety. She was anxious there could be some parole or something coming up."
Pope's father Richard Sutherland said the incident had "had a really devastating effect on her".
He said he had lots of questions that now needed answers, telling ITV News: "We want to know more. I think we know that she was really struggling [with] a lot of issues and she clearly just couldn't cope with that. With the epilepsy she was just struggling badly."
Hayes' mother confirmed that Pope had made a complaint against her son although the detail of the precise allegation is not clear. "I am aware that my son had a brief friendship with Gaia Pope when she was 16 and had just started college," she said.
"Within weeks of their friendship ending Gaia made an accusation to the police which was not upheld.
"To the best of my knowledge my son has not had any contact with Gaia since their friendship ended at least two years ago."
Hayes, from Bournemouth, and his friend William Wright, 24, from Bovington, also in Dorset, were jailed for two years for abusing another victim. The victim had been persuaded by Hayes in November 2014 to take part in a sex video with Wright, telling the girl that the video was for personal use.
Bournemouth Crown Court heard that Hayes and Wright shot 10 video clips and 27 still images of them having sex with the girl.
Their victim was 16 at the time and over the age of consent for sex but under the age of 18, meaning it was illegal to make or possess indecent images of her.
A year later in November 2015, the video was uploaded onto the internet. The men were arrested shortly afterwards.
It is not clear what Pope had alleged against Hayes. Wright's father Jeremy Wright insisted yesterday his son had not known Pope and bore no responsibility for her death. Jeremy Wright said he had been told by his son's friends that Hayes had faced further accusations although he was unclear what they were.
Pope's family and friends have now begun a campaign seeking justice for the dead girl.
Lucy Tuffin, her close friend, posted on Facebook: "No one can hurt you anymore Gaia, if I could have protected you from it all I would have," adding: "Justice for Gaia. It was You and Me against the world and still is."
Her cousin Marienna Weidemann-Pope had posted on Facebook "#JusticeForGaia" which was being shared across the social networking site.
Pope's mother, Natasha Pope said in a written tribute: "A wise magnificent soul that burns far too bright for this world. Her spirit overflows with love and compassion for others.
"Gaia our free spirit, our wild pony, a light that will radiate for all eternity. Meet me at the gate my darling and so we are here longing for you for the rest of our lives. Together forever, united as one, your Mum always."
Pope's twin sister Maya said in tribute: "Gaia is my everything and I am heartbroken."
Dorset police confirmed the three people arrested in connection with Pope's disappearance had been released from investigation without any further action.
The cause of death remains undetermined pending toxicology results.
"I appreciate our enquiries would have caused these individuals stress and anxiety, however we have an obligation in any missing person investigation to explore every possible line of enquiry," said Detective Superintendent Paul Kessell.
"The public would expect Dorset Police to fully investigate the sudden disappearance of a teenage girl. Our aim was not only to find Gaia but to find out what happened to her."