As a nation, we have become used to the fact that on a day-to-day basis crimes happen. However, now and again there is something so horrific that the nation’s consciousness is captured.
This can be seen in relation to the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. More recently, the murder of the young school girl Tia Sharp has pulled on the heart strings of the country.
On 3rd August, Tia’s step-grandfather, Stuart Hazell, told police that Tia had left the house to buy shoes from nearby Croydon. Subsequently, the young schoolgirl was reported missing by her family, sparking a campaign by the family, friends and police to find the missing girl.
A week later, on August 10th, a body matching the description of Tia was discovered in the loft of her grandmother’s house wrapped in a black bedsheet. The body was later identified as that of Tia Sharp.
A nationwide manhunt for Hazell was launched and, after 8 hours on the run, he was finally arrested late the same day. He was charged with the murder of the schoolgirl on 11th August, more than a week after she was reported missing.
The theory beginning to emerge is that at some point between 2nd and 11th August, Hazell smothered Tia. However, no formal cause of death has been given.
Tia’s grandmother, Christine Sharp, was also arrested on suspicion of murder, as was Paul Meehan on suspicion of aiding an offender. Both were released on bail pending further inquiries.
Hazell appeared before Camberwell Green Magistrates Court on the 13th August via video-link. No plea was entered and the case was committed to the Old Bailey.
A preliminary hearing has been set for 19th November. He was remanded in custody to Belmarsh Prison, where he is being kept in isolation for his own safety.
Criticism has been levelled at the police due to the fact that it wasn’t until the fourth search of the house that the body was finally discovered.
Commander Neil Basu, the officer in charge of the investigation, has apologised to the family of Tia for the delay in finding the body and has announced an investigation into the ‘human error’ which caused it.
On Thursday August 16th, asked by Coroner Roy Palmer if the body had been formally identified, Det Sgt Eric Sword of the Metropolitan Police's Specialist Crime Operations Unit, based at Sutton, said: "From the checks that we have been able to carry out, yes."
"And that body is that of Tia Sharp?" the coroner asked.
"That is correct," he replied.
Dr Palmer told the court that once the postmortem examination had been completed, Mr Hazell had the right to request a second examination by a pathologist of his choice.
The coroner asked for this to happen as soon as possible so that Tia's body could be released to her family.
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