THE family of teenager Gaia Pope-Sutherland say they are "frozen" in their grief as an inquest into her death is delayed again.

Miss Pope-Sutherland disappeared in November 2017. She went missing after police failed to prosecute a man she alleged had raped her.

Despite a huge search, she was found dead in bushes by a cliff-top near Swanage 11 days later.

Her body was located in an area that had already been searched by officers days before.

Miss Pope-Sutherland's family have called for answers about Dorset Police's handling of both her disappearance and the previous rape allegation she had made.

And following the latest delay in two separate investigations by the police watchdog, they have hit out at the justice system.

One of their chief complaints is that they claim they are being excluded in the inquiries being made by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which is investigating Dorset Police's involvement.

The family said in a statement: "Every deadline the IOPC has given our family has been broken with little explanation, while decisions are made without us behind closed doors.

"Even the monthly updates we were promised, we have had to chase for.

"Now, less than four weeks before it was due to resume, we are told that Gaia's inquest will be postponed yet again.

"Even now, we have no guarantees that the answers we have long waited and suffered for will be given to us in full.

"November 7 will mark the second anniversary of Gaia's disappearance. For almost two years we have been left, struggling to stay afloat in a sea of unanswered questions.

"Was Gaia's disappearance treated with the seriousness it deserved? Has third party involvement in her death been ruled out? Why did it take Dorset Police so long to find her? Why did they encourage her not to pursue the case against her [alleged attacker] and remain so resistant to public assistance in the search for her when she was missing?

"These are questions no grieving family should ever be left with, while the answers may be sitting on someone's desk.

"Without them we live frozen, unable to grieve, unable to move forwards, unable even to begin. Justice delayed is justice denied.

"That we should have to wait so long and fight so hard for answers about what happened to our darling girl, while the details are poured over by strangers, seems bizarre."

Miss Pope-Sutherland, who lived in Swanage, made an allegation of rape to Dorset Police in 2015. The matter was investigated but the police did not proceed with criminal charges.

The man she alleged attacked her was later convicted and jailed for an unrelated sex offence.

Before she disappeared Gaia was increasingly afraid that the man would soon be released from prison.

A post mortem examination later found the cause of her death was hypothermia.

Her family have raised concerns about the police's handling of her allegation and the missing persons case, as officers had already searched the area Gaia's body was eventually found in.

The family added: "We have always maintained that what happened to Gaia is a matter not just of our private grief but one of public concern.

"At present, we can only hope that a robust and unflinching investigation is taking place.

"With new statistics revealing the true scale of police failures to prosecute sexual violence and Dorset Police now rated worst in the UK, we are more determined than ever to see lessons learned from Gaia's case, survivors' access to justice improved and their voices heard."