Family renew plea for Tia's return

Tia Sharp has been missing since last Friday Photo: Met Police

The worried family of Tia Sharp have renewed their pleas for her to return home as the search for the missing schoolgirl reaches the one-week mark.

The 12-year-old seemingly vanished without a trace last Friday afternoon after telling relatives she was going shopping at the Whitgift Centre in Croydon, south London.

She was last seen at the house where her grandmother Christine Sharp, 46, lives with partner Stuart Hazell, 37, at The Lindens in New Addington.

More than 80 police officers have spent almost seven days hunting for the youngster, while large members of the local community have lent their support to the cause.

Despite their efforts, Tia's disappearance still remains a mystery.

Tia's uncle David Sharp said yesterday: "The family, as you can imagine, are in bits.

"Everyone is trying to do their best by sticking together and keeping everything tight and supporting each other.

"I don't know what has happened to Tia. I don't want anyone to think the worst has happened to Tia."

He said he hoped she was "somewhere safe" and urged her: "Come home. There is no trouble. Walk through that door."

He also praised the "amazing" support of members of the public helping in the search.

Tia's mother, Natalie Sharp, 30, did not want to speak to the media, but her partner David Niles, 29, told reporters: "Just find my little girl. Just find my little girl please."

Scotland Yard has received more than 300 calls and 60 reported sightings, including a member of the public who came forward saying they saw Tia leaving her grandmother's house at about noon last Friday.

Officers have collected more than 800 hours of CCTV footage from buses and trams.

Police Olympics resources have been redirected to the search, which involves around 40 detectives and 40 specialist search officers.

Investigators have focused their attention on the area around Mrs Sharp's house, with officers searching woodland and scouring rubbish bins on the south-east London estate.

They have also taken evidence from the family home and plan to hand out leaflets on trams and buses today.

Scotland Yard has been liaising with forces which have dealt with other missing person cases, including detectives in West Yorkshire who investigated the disappearance of Shannon Matthews.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "As is routine, we liaise with all forces that have dealt with similar cases.

"This case, like the Shannon Matthews case, involved the search for a missing child.

"This is a missing persons inquiry and we are putting all of our resources into finding her."

Mr Hazell, thought to be one of the last people to see Tia, was questioned by police as a witness for more than two hours on Wednesday before returning home.

He said the schoolgirl is "a happy-go-lucky golden angel" who has no problems at all.

"She's perfect. There's no arguments, nothing we can think of," Mr Hazell told ITV News yesterday.

The local community has rallied to help in the search, donning Find Tia T-shirts and handing out leaflets to passing motorists, while The Sun newspaper has put up a £25,000 reward.

A candle is burning outside Tia's grandmother's house and candles and tealights have been left at a makeshift vigil at a bus stop nearby, along with hand-written messages.

A police spokesman said: "This remains a missing person inquiry and we are keeping an open mind about the circumstances of Tia's disappearance."