Missing girl's grandmother held

Sat, Aug 11, 2012, 01:00

Schoolgirl Tia Sharp’s grandmother and her partner were being questioned on suspicion of murder tonight as police said apologised for not finding a body at their home sooner.

Christine Sharp (46) and Stuart Hazell (37) were arrested last night after human remains were discovered in the house in New Addington, south London.

The body was found yesterday on the fourth police examination of the terraced property in a week, but police have not yet confirmed that it is that of missing

Metropolitan Police South East London Area Commander Neil Basu said “human error” was to blame for not locating the body sooner and apologised to Tia’s mother Natalie.

“On behalf of the Metropolitan Police I apologise for the distress and concern this delay will have caused,” he said.

Christine Sharp’s next-door neighbour Paul Meehan (39) has been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.

The body was found in the house a week after the 12-year-old was reported missing.

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. This exercise took two hours. Mr Basu said the occupiers gave their consent to this search.

“All parts of the premises were searched including the location where a body was discovered, five days later, on Friday, August 10th,” 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.

“This was not a search, but the attendance of a body recovery dog to assist the investigation team in their inquiries,” he said.

“It is not appropriate to comment further on aspects of the criminal investigation currently being conducted but our investigation was such that it was decided that a further intrusive search needed to be undertaken — it was that search, yesterday, which resulted in the discovery.”

Two police officers were on duty this evening outside an apartment block in
Mitcham, south London, believed to be the home of Tia’s mother Natalie.

One officer guarded a second-floor flat while another officer, who stood on the ground floor, confirmed Ms Sharp was not currently at the address.

Flowers and cards had been left outside the building in tribute to Tia. One message read: “You are one of the brightest girls ever and you will be a bright star in the sky forever.”

In the wake of Mr Hazell’s arrest last night in the borough of Merton, Scotland
Yard today announced that a 46-year-old woman and 39-year-old man had also been arrested yesterday.

Sources later identified them as Christine Sharp and Mr Meehan.

Neighbours in New Addington today expressed anger after spending days searching for Tia.

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 there were now concerns for safety in the area.

Pointing to the quiet street where he lived, he added: “Normally you’d see 30 or 40 kids playing out in the street. How many do you see now?”

Police reportedly removed the body, which is yet to be identified, from the terraced house late last night. A post-mortem examination is expected to take place in the coming days.

Police have not revealed where the body was discovered, but officers were seen taking a ladder into the property yesterday afternoon, sparking rumours that it may have been in the loft.

A dark holdall was later seen being removed from the house.

Mr Hazell was arrested in a public place — believed to be a park — at about
8.25pm last night. He had previously been interviewed by police as a potential witness.

It is understood Mr Hazell was spotted by a schoolgirl shortly after he bought alcohol in an off-licence.