Murder of Tia Sharp
|Date||2 August 2012|
|Location||New Addington, London, England|
|Burial||14 September 2012|
Wasting police time (Meehan)
The murder of Tia Sharp was a high-profile English case in which a 12-year-old girl, Tia Sharp (30 June 2000 – 2 August 2012), was reported missing from the home of her grandmother in New Addington, London, in August 2012.
When police discovered her body in the loft of the house seven days later, they arrested Christine Sharp and her partner Stuart Hazell on suspicion of murder. Hazell is a former boyfriend of Tia's mother. Hazell was charged with Tia's murder on 12 August.
Hazell told police that Tia had left the house on 3 August 2012 to travel to Croydon, five miles away, to buy shoes in the Whitgift Centre. On 7 August, Tia's uncle, David Sharp, made a televised plea for her safe return. Fifty-five sightings were reported by members of the public, but none were substantiated. Eighty police officers were assigned to the search, and 800 hours of CCTV footage were collected.
On 10 August, a body was discovered in a black bed sheet in a black bag in the loft of Tia's grandmother Christine Sharp's home, after police searched it for the fourth time. Police launched a search for Hazell, and later that day arrested him at Cannon Hill Common, Morden, on suspicion of murder, after a tip-off from a member of the public. It was later announced that two further arrests had been made: Christine Sharp, on suspicion of murder, and her neighbour, Paul Meehan, on suspicion of assisting an offender. Meehan and Sharp were subsequently bailed. Commander Neil Basu, the officer in charge of the investigation, apologised to Tia's mother for the delay in finding her daughter's body. He blamed human error and said that a review would be undertaken "to ensure such a failing is not repeated".
Late in the evening of 11 August, Hazell was charged with the murder of Tia Sharp. He appeared before Camberwell Green magistrates' court on 13 August via video-link. No plea was entered and the case was committed to the Old Bailey for trial, with a first appearance on 15 August, also via video-link, and a preliminary hearing set for 19 November. He was remanded in custody to Belmarsh prison where he was kept in isolation for his own safety.
A post-mortem on the body was begun on 10 August, and paused later that day. By 16 August, the post-mortem had still not been completed, but at an inquest into the death, which opened that day, it was confirmed that the body was that of Tia Sharp. The post-mortem later concluded without establishing the cause of death. Experts told This is Croydon Today that the delay in finding the body will have made it much harder to establish the cause of death, and that without a cause of death the prosecution will find it much harder to build a case. However, detectives suspected and it was widely reported that Tia Sharp was smothered, although this was not officially proven to be the cause of death.
On 23 August police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe addressed his force's failure to find Tia's body. He said that the error could not be attributed to a single officer. He wanted "to understand what processes and management decisions we've made that led to that failure." He hoped to have answers within a few weeks, and again apologised to Tia's family.
It was announced on 26 November that Stuart Hazell would face trial in May 2013.
On 5 February 2013, Meehan was charged with wasting police time. He appeared at Croydon magistrates' court on 28 February 2013, where he denied the charge against him and was released on bail for a one-day trial on 29 July.
Hazell pleaded not guilty when he appeared in court on 8 March 2013.
The trial of Stuart Hazell began on 7 May 2013 before Mr Justice Nicol. On 13 May, Hazell changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment on 14 May with a tariff of 38 years, meaning he will be 75 years old before he is eligible for parole.
On 5 August 2013, Paul Meehan was found guilty of wasting police time and sentenced to five months in prison.
In June 2013, Steven Carter announced that he was going to be a father again as his girlfriend was pregnant.
In July 2013, Tia's biological father Steven Carter said he backed a plan for websites to be told to block certain search terms and warn people when they try to view illegal content.
In November 2013, partly in response to the murders of Tia Sharp and April Jones, the search engines Google and Bing modified their systems to block results from searches aimed at producing child abuse images.
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