In August 2012, the whole country was looking for Tia Sharp, the south London schoolgirl who had been reported missing. One man knew where she was. Stuart Hazell - the man she called grandad and her killer.
On 3 August 2012, 12-year-old Tia Sharp was reported missing. Her step-grandfather, Stuart Hazell, told police told police that she’d last been seen leaving his home in south London at midday, heading to a nearby shopping centre.
There’d been no trace of her since.
Tia lived with her mum, Natalie, but was very close to her grandmother Christine and her partner Stuart.
Hazell had known Tia since she was 2. She’d grown up calling him Grandad, and was said to ‘idolise’ him.
As she often did, the night before she disappeared, Tia had slept over at Christine and Hazell’s home.
Christine was working a night shift and Hazell and Tia had spent the evening playing computer games and eating pizza and chips.
According to Hazell, the next day she’d gone shopping to by some flip flops and wasn’t seen again.
In the following days, there were emotional TV appeals and front page newspaper stories offering huge rewards for information leading to Tia’s safe return.
Her face looked out from local shops and homes on missing person posters.
Hazell lead searches wearing a t-shirt with Tia’s photo on it.
As the last person to see Tia alive, rumours began to circulate that Stuart knew more than he was saying about her disappearance.
He angrily denied them saying: ‘I love her to bits. She is like my own daughter.’
But on 10 August, police carried out their fourth search of Hazell’s home.
This time, in the loft, they found Tia’s body, wrapped in a bed sheet and a black bag.
Stuart Hazell was arrested for her murder.
In May 2013, Hazell appeared at the Old Bailey and denied murder.
The court heard that he had become sexually obsessed with Tia in the lead up to her murder. He had secretly filmed her applying cream to her legs and spied on her as she slept.
Police had found the footage on a memory stick hidden on the top of a door frame at his home.
Computer evidence showed he’d made searches for pornographic material using terms including ‘incest’ ‘violent forced rape’ ‘little girls in glasses’.
The jury gasped when shown the last photo Hazell had taken on his phone – a pre-pubescent girl, naked and posed on Tia’s bloodied bed at her grandmother’s home. The girl’s face was not in the picture but the jury were told it was Tia.
She had been too badly decomposed for pathologists to establish her cause of death. But there were no signs to suggest she’d died after falling down the stairs – Hazell’s claim.
On the fifth day of the trial, Hazell gave up his campaign of lies and changed his plea to guilty.
There were shouts of ‘beast’ from the public gallery as he was sentenced to 38 years in prison.