Man charged with Tia Sharp murder
Detectives investigating the disappearance of schoolgirl Tia Sharp have charged her grandmother’s partner with murder.
Stuart Hazell, 37, will appear before magistrates tomorrow accused of killing the 12-year-old, who went missing in New Addington, south London, more than a week ago.
The youngster’s grandmother Christine Sharp has been released on bail following her arrest on suspicion of murder, Scotland Yard said.
Officers have also freed Sharp’s next-door neighbour on bail pending further inquiries. Paul Meehan, 39, was detained by detectives on suspicion of assisting an offender
Police arrested the three suspects on Friday after investigators discovered a body inside the house Hazell shares with 46-year-old Sharp, in The Lindens, New Addington, near Croydon.
The property was the last place where Tia was seen alive.
Hazell was charged during the early hours of this morning after being quizzed by detectives.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Although officers await formal identification of a body found at The Lindens on Friday 10th August, the victim is named in the murder charge as 12-year-old Tia Sharp.
“Two other people have been bailed to return to a south London police station. They are a 46-year-old woman who was arrested on suspicion of murder and a 39-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.”
A massive manhunt was launched for Tia after she was reported missing by her family nine days ago. Around 100 police officers were involved in the search along with countless members of the local community, but it proved fruitless for the first week.
Despite visiting Sharp’s terraced property four times, investigators only discovered the body on Friday and have since apologised to Tia’s mother for not finding it sooner.
A search for Hazell, who had previously been interviewed by police as a potential witness, was launched following the discovery. He was arrested hours later in the south London borough of Merton after apparently being spotted by a schoolgirl who had seen him buying alcohol in an off-licence.
Police also detained a 46-year-old woman and 39-year-old man — identified by sources as Sharp and Meehan — on suspicion of murder and assisting an offender respectively.
A post-mortem examination on the body, which is yet to be formally identified but believed to be Tia’s, is expected to recommence today after it was paused last night. It is still not known how the youngster died.
Police have not revealed where the remains were discovered, but officers were seen taking a ladder into the property on Friday, sparking rumours that it might have been in the loft.
Metropolitan Police South East London Area Commander Neil Basu said “human error” was to blame for not locating the body sooner and yesterday apologised to Tia’s mother Natalie, who lives in an apartment block in Mitcham, south London.
“On behalf of the Metropolitan Police I apologise for the distress and concern this delay will have caused,” he said.
Mr Basu explained that the first examination of the property on receiving the report last Friday was not a full search. He said mistakes were made on the second search two days later, which took two hours.
“All parts of the premises were searched including the location where a body was discovered, five days later,” Mr Basu he said. “An early review has been conducted and it is now clear that human error delayed the discovery of the body within the house.
“We have apologised to Tia’s mother that our procedures did not lead to the discovery of the body on this search.” He said a third visit took place on Wednesday, but added: “This was not a search, but the attendance of a body recovery dog to assist the investigation team in their inquiries. “A continuing review and examination of our search processes will be undertaken to ensure such a failing is not repeated.”
Neighbours in New Addington have expressed their anger after spending days searching for Tia around the vicinity of her grandmother’s house.
Dale Robertson, 44, said: “There’s a mixture of anger and heartbreak. People feel aggrieved. They were duped. Even people who couldn’t get out on the searches have posted up on Facebook that they are angry and they were duped.”
Mr Robertson said thorough searches of the house should have been done sooner. He added: “I don’t think it happened soon enough. After 24 hours they should have been ripping that house apart.”
Flowers, teddy bears and candles remained near the house where the body was found after neighbours and friends left tributes to Tia. One message read: “Rest in peace Tia. Justice will be served.”