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Stuart Hazell pleads guilty to murder of Tia Sharp

Stuart Hazell Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

Stuart Hazell will be sentenced tomorrow after unexpectedly pleading guilty to the murder of schoolgirl Tia Sharp in August last year.

Hazell, 37, dramatically changed his plea on the fifth day of his trial at the Old Bailey.

According to his defence barrister, Lord Carlile QC, he made the decision because "Tia's family have suffered enough".

ITV News correspondent Juliet Bremner reports:

Speaking outside the courtroom today, Tia's father said that any sentence he receives will "not be enough" and called for Hazell to "serve his sentence [and] then be hung".

Tia was last seen at the house her grandmother shares with Hazell in Croydon, south London. Her body was discovered in the loft of the home after a week-long search by police.

Hazell is accused of sexually assaulting the schoolgirl before hiding her body from police.

In an exclusive interview with ITV News in the days following her disappearance, he insisted he did not know where she was and said she was "like my own daughter".

Lord Carlile said in mitigation that Hazell's decision to admit to the murder was a belated "act of remorse" and was "probably the bravest decision he's ever made in his life".

Tia Sharp Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

During the trial, the jury were shown an image of a child, alleged to be Tia, on a bed at her grandmother's home.

Jurors also heard how two memory cards containing "extensive" images of child abuse had been found at the home, as well as images and videos of Tia sleeping.

Hazell initially claimed in court that Tia died after falling down some stairs and that he had concealed her body because he panicked.

Today, his barrister told the court that Hazell "did not embark to kill for sexual or sadistic motivation," but that he accepted responsibility for her death.

Stuart Hazel leaving the home of Tia's grandmother in August 2012 Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Tia's mother said in her witness statement read to the court that she had not allowed herself to grieve yet and that she had placed her "ultimate trust" in Hazell.

When I was told Tia had gone missing I always believed that she would come back.

At the very worst I thought I'd have to face the fact that someone had touched her and scared her and hurt her. I never really considered that she would be dead ...

It is too hard for me to believe that she is really gone. I try to think of her being on a sleepover at her friend's house.

– Natalie Sharp, tia's mother

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Scola described Hazell as an "violent and dangerous man who poses a significant risk to young girls".

He also apologised to relatives for the fact that police did not find Tia's body sooner despite two initial searches of the house.

A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said that the strength of the case against Hazell had left him with little choice but to plead guilty.

This was an appalling and unthinkable crime, made worse by Hazell’s efforts to hide Tia’s body and disrupt the police investigation.

As an adult and trusted family member, he had responsibility for ensuring Tia’s safety. Instead, he abused and murdered her.

– ALISON SAUNDERS, CHIEF CROWN PROSECUTOR FOR LONDON

Hazell will be sentenced at 10:30am on Tuesday.

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