Murder of Tia Sharp
|Time||3 August 2012(went missing; body found seven days later)|
|Location||New Addington, London, England, UK|
|Burial||14 September 2012|
Wasting police time (Meehan)
|Convictions||Murder (Hazell guilty plea; sentenced to 38 years)
Wasting police time (Meehan conviction; five months imprisonment)
The murder of Tia Sharp was a high-profile case in the United Kingdom, in which a 12-year-old girl, Tia Sharp (30 June 2000 – 3 August 2012), was reported missing from and later found dead in the home of her grandmother's house in New Addington, London, in August 2012. After her body was discovered, police arrested her grandmother, Christine Sharp, and Christine's then-boyfriend, Stuart Hazell on suspicion of murder. Hazell was charged with Tia Sharp's murder on 12 August.
On 7 August, Sharp'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 9 August, Hazell appeared on an interview for ITV News, denying that he had done anything to Sharp and praying for her safe return.
On 10 August, a body was discovered in a black bed sheet in a black bag in the loft of the home of Sharp's grandmother, after police searched it for the fourth time. Police launched a search for Hazell, and arrested him on suspicion of murder that evening at 8:25PM at Cannon Hill Common, Morden, after a tip-off from a member of the public. It was later announced that two further arrests had been made: Sharp's grandmother, Christine Sharp, on suspicion of murder, and Christine's neighbour, Paul Meehan, on suspicion of assisting an offender. Christine and Meehan were subsequently bailed. Commander Neil Basu, the officer in charge of the investigation, apologised to Tia Sharp'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".
In the early hours of 12 August, Hazell was charged with the murder of 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, with a preliminary hearing set for 19 November and a provisional trial date set for 21 January 2013. He was remanded in custody to Belmarsh prison where he was kept in isolation for his own safety.
A post-mortem on the body began 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 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 made it much harder to establish the cause of death, and that without a cause of death the prosecution would find it much harder to build a case. However, detectives suspected and it was widely reported that 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 Sharp's body. He said 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."
It was announced on 26 November 2012 that Hazell would face trial in May 2013.
On 5 February 2013, neighbour Paul 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 to murder when he appeared in court on 8 March 2013.
The trial of 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 minimum term of 38 years, meaning he will be 75 years old before he is eligible for parole.
On 5 August 2013, Meehan was found guilty of wasting police time and sentenced to five months in prison.
In June 2013, Sharp's biological father, Steven Carter, announced that he was going to be a father again, as his girlfriend was pregnant. In July 2013, 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 June 2013, the home of Christine Sharp and Stuart Hazell, where Tia Sharp was murdered, was demolished and in mid-2014, work began on new houses being built on the site.
In November 2013, partly in response to the murders of Sharp and April Jones, the search engines Google and Bing modified their systems to block results from searches aimed at producing child abuse images.
In March 2014, the murder of Sharp was featured in CI Channel's series, Britain's Darkest Taboos, as the first episode of Series 3, broadcast on 16 March 2014.
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