Stuart Hazell charged with murder of 12-year-old Tia Sharp

Stuart Hazell.
Stuart Hazell. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Detectives investigating the disappearance of schoolgirl Tia Sharp have charged her grandmother's partner with murder.

Stuart Hazell, 37, will appear in court 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, 46, who was also questioned on suspicion of murder, has been released on bail, Scotland Yard said.

Sharp's next-door neighbour Paul Meehan, 39, who was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender, has also been released on police bail pending further inquiries.

Tia Sharp.
Tia Sharp. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Officers arrested Hazell on Friday after police discovered a body inside the house he shares with Sharp in New Addington, near Croydon. The property was the last place where Tia was seen alive.

Hazell was charged late last night after being quizzed by detectives, police said.

A Scotland Yard spokesman added: "Although officers await formal identification of a body found at 20 The Lindens on Friday 10 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."

Flowers outside a block of flats, in Mitcham, south London, where Natalie Sharp, the mother of Tia Sharp, lives.
Flowers outside a block of flats, in Mitcham, south London, where Natalie Sharp, the mother of Tia Sharp, lives. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A massive manhunt was launched after Tia was reported missing nine days ago.

More than 80 police officers were involved in the search along with members of the local community, but the search proved fruitless for the first week.

Despite searching Sharp's terraced property four times, police only discovered the body on Friday and have since apologised to Tia's mother for not finding it sooner.

A manhunt was launched for Hazell, with officers warning members of the public not to approach him, before he was detained in the south London borough of Merton after being spotted by a member of the public later in the day.

Police also arrested 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 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.

Stuart Hazell has been charged with the murder of 12-year-old Tia Sharp.
Stuart Hazell has been charged with the murder of 12-year-old Tia Sharp. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire/Press Association Images

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 may 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.

Floral tributes to Tia Sharp.
Floral tributes to Tia Sharp. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images

He said mistakes were made on the second search two days later, which 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 10," 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.

He added: "A continuing review and examination of our search processes will be undertaken to ensure such a failing is not repeated."