Tia Sharp: Eighty officers in search for Croydon girl

Cdr Neil Basu: "This is an absolutely terrible time for Tia's family"

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Eighty police officers are involved in the search for 12-year-old Tia Sharp who went missing after a visit to her grandmother's house in south London.

Tia disappeared after leaving the home in New Addington, Croydon, to go shopping at about midday on Friday.

The Met Police said Olympic resources had been diverted to the search.

Stuart Hazell, partner of Tia's grandmother Christine Sharp, has returned home after helping police with inquiries. He was not under arrest.

'Miss her dreadfully'

Area Commander Neil Basu stressed the investigation was still a missing person's inquiry and did not suggest there were any suspects in the case.

Earlier, two men in plain clothes were seen entering Mrs Sharp's house before leaving the area with 37-year-old Mr Hazell.

Mr Basu said: "I am looking to find Tia safe and well.

Missing poster made by Karon March A poster made by Karon March is part of the community effort

"I can't imagine how it must feel for this family after five days. The family want Tia home, they miss her dreadfully.

"I have had Olympic resources redirected to help in the search for Tia and over the last three days or so that has meant more than 100 extra uniformed officers in the Croydon and Mitcham areas.

"There are over 80 officers working on this case, 40 of them detectives, 40 of them specialist search officers. I will make more available if necessary."

Police said about 800 hours of CCTV had been gathered.

Mr Basu explained that 120 hours of the CCTV footage, including from trams and buses, had already been viewed, but so far there had been no confirmed sightings of Tia.

Specialist search dogs and police helicopters have been used in the search, which has included checks of open ground and premises within a 500m radius of the house in New Addington.

Officers have been checking garages, lock-ups, all public access areas, the local school and wooded areas, Mr Basu said.

Witness 'absolutely sure'

Police have received more than 300 calls from members of the public and reports about 60 possible sightings of the schoolgirl.

"A member of the public has come forward and they say that they saw Tia on the estate the day that she disappeared," Mr Basu continued.

"This witness has now provided a statement and it does state that Tia was seen at approximately midday on Friday, 3 August, leaving her grandmother's house. We are following up that sighting."

Candles lit for Tia People lit candles for Tia at a bus stand close to her grandmother's home

But Mr Basu said officers could not be "absolutely sure" who saw the girl before she disappeared.

Previously police had said Tia's grandmother's partner, Mr Hazell, was the last person to see her, but that view was not endorsed by Tia's stepfather David Niles.

Earlier Tia's head teacher at Raynes Park High School in Merton also appealed for information.

Phillip Wheatley said: "Tia is a friendly young person who is well liked by staff and students. She has had a successful first year at the school.

"I would urge anyone who thinks they may have seen Tia, or who has any information on Tia's whereabouts, to contact the police immediately."

Police searched Birchwood, which is less than a mile from Mrs Sharp's home in New Addington.

Campaign for Tia

On Tuesday night about 200 people - some from as far away as Wales - gathered at Croydon Rugby Club to search the woodland accompanied by officers.

A Facebook campaign has also been launched and family and friends have been wearing T-shirts bearing the girl's picture.

The schoolgirl is described as white, 4ft 5in tall and slim, wearing FCUK glasses.

She went missing after leaving her grandmother's house on her way to the Whitgift shopping centre in Croydon.

Tia was last captured on CCTV on Thursday afternoon outside the Co-op in Featherbed Lane near her grandmother's house.

Officers have scoured hours of CCTV footage but have not found any trace of the girl, who has never gone missing before.

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