Summer Films has produced a three-part documentary for BBC Three in which Zara McDermott attempts to understand and shed light on the tragic circumstances around the death of Dorset teenager, Gaia Pope-Sutherland.

Gaia: A Death on Dancing Ledge will delve into the case of Gaia Pope-Sutherland, highlighting the families’ search for truth and justice. Gaia was 19 years old when she died in November 2017, tthe series tracks the events leading up to her death and explores the failings and oversights by officials, including the police and health care professionals, involved in her care.

The documentary will hear directly from Gaia’s friends and family about her life and the circumstances that led to her death, as well as from the former Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset at the time of her death. As Zara speaks to a number of those closely involved in the case and attempts to piece the puzzle together, she continues to tackle the themes she has explored in her other documentary films for the BBC.

Gaia’s older sister, Clara, twin sister, Maya, Mum, Kim and Dad, Richard, say: “Gaia would have been 25 earlier this month, our hearts ache thinking about everything she was and all the possibilities of what she could have become. With the release of this series, we’re clinging on to the hope that we can be part of the change Gaia so desperately needed.

“We want young people and survivors watching to know that they are not alone; there are people and organisations that will listen to and support you. In speaking up, united we can eliminate the perpetuation of rape culture in society and hold the authorities that are meant to protect us to account.”

Zara McDermott, TV presenter and documentary maker says: “When I first heard about the disappearance of 19-year-old Gaia on the news in 2017, I was immediately struck by her story. She and I were the same age. I saw Gaia’s face on the news for days and days after this, and it really struck a chord with me. A young woman with the world at her feet, yet her life was over before it had even begun. I began diving deeper into Gaia’s story, alongside her brave family, and I uncovered a huge amount in the year and a half I spent down in Dorset. This young woman needed a voice, and I wanted to tell her story.”

Clare Sillery, Head of Documentary Commissioning, says: “We are delighted to give a platform to this incredibly important and timely documentary series and for Gaia’s story to be front and centre. It follows on from the hugely poignant subjects that Zara McDermott has delved into already in her filmmaking for the BBC and looks at whether enough was done to protect Gaia and other young women and girls, exploring the impact on those closest to Gaia. We hope the series will contribute to a very important conversation about what needs to change in the future.”

Gaia: A Death on Dancing Ledge (3×60) was commissioned by Head of Documentary Commissioning, Clare Sillery for BBC Three and iPlayer. The Commissioning Editors are Max Gogarty and David Hodgkinson. It is being made by Summer Films where the Executive Producers are Lucy Hillman and Sam Whittaker.

Jon Creamer

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