Tia Sharp: Private family funeral for schoolgirl held
Friends, relatives and members of the community have gathered in south London to pay tribute to murdered Tia Sharp.
A private family funeral was held at North East Surrey Crematorium in Morden. Children from Tia's school lined the streets as the hearse passed.
Tia's mother Natalie Sharp, her partner David Niles and grandmother Christine Sharp were among those present.
The 12-year-old's body was discovered by police at her grandmother's house in New Addington, Croydon, in August.
Ms Sharp's partner Stuart Hazell, 37, who has been charged with Tia's murder, is in custody and expected to make a plea at the Old Bailey on 19 November.
A provisional trial date has been set for 21 January.Two-minute silence
Hundreds of children from Tia's school, Raynes Park High School, lined Burlington Road, Raynes Park, when the funeral cortege passed by.
A horse-drawn carriage carried a pink and white coffin.
It travelled behind a hearse filled with flowers, some spelling out "Tia" while others describing her as "a little Angel".
A truck displayed a mock-up of a Blackberry mobile phone with a photo of the 12-year-old's face in place of the screen.
Some people threw flowers at the procession as the gathered crowds became silent.
There was pin-drop silence as the procession passed by the school with only intermittent sobs breaking the silence.
Many pupils were visibly moved and were supported by their families and teachers. Some parents and school staff also had tears in their eyes.
Several students wore pink clips, hairbands and scarves, in keeping with the family's pink and black theme for the occasion.
Some children had also tied pink balloons on the railings of a bridge by which the funeral passed on its way to the crematorium.
The funeral procession involved at least 30 vehicles and included three trucks full of flower decorations.
During the service some of Tia's favourite songs were played including All Things Bright and Beautiful and Tears In Heaven by Eric Clapton.Pink and black theme
One of the mothers standing on the route, said: "My daughter was in the same class as Tia."
Asked what the most fitting tribute could be for her, she said: "Words can't say more than what you have seen here."
She said children had left dedications in a garden in the school's grounds.
Eileen Smythe's daughter was a year older than Tia at school and was at the service.
The teenager made pillowcases for Tia with the message "time to say goodbye" and put them on the railings of Grand Avenue, a few hundred yards from the crematorium.
Ms Smyth said: "Tia was a lovely girl. She was an angel, she was a very popular, independent girl.
"To Tia pink was her best colour, her schoolbag was pink, so everyone's wearing pink."
Schoolgirl Bethany, 12, from Morden, was in the same house and year as Tia, and they used to get the same bus home.
She was among the some 20 pupils who attended the service and said: "She was a really nice, pretty girl. We had loads of jokes together.
"It [the service] was very upsetting, just remembering all the good things that happened when she was around."
Bethany's mother Melaney, 33, said: "We turned up in the school and crematorium to pay respects to Tia."
The family learnt about her missing when they were on holiday and about her death on their way back.
She said: "We were on our way home from holiday and cried all the way home."
At the New Horizon Community Centre in Pollards Hill, close to where Tia lived, a book of condolence was opened a day after her body was found on 10 August.
On Friday many brought candles and flowers to the centre where the 12-year-old took dance lessons.
Andy Hodge, who manages the centre, said: "She was a nice kid.
"It's sad that it takes something like that to bring a community together."