London

Tia Sharp murder trial: Stuart Hazell pleads guilty

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionStuart Hazell changed his plea on the fifth day of the trial at the Old Bailey

The man accused of murdering 12-year-old Tia Sharp after sexually assaulting her has changed his plea to guilty.

Stuart Hazell, 37, the partner of Tia's grandmother, had claimed the girl died in an accident at their house in Croydon, south London, last year.

Tia was last seen alive at the house on 3 August and her body was found in the loft a week later.

Hazell said he changed his plea because Tia's family had "suffered enough". He will be sentenced on Tuesday.

He had claimed Tia was killed falling down the stairs and that he hid her body in panic.

Hazell has previous convictions for drug dealing, racially aggravated common assault, burglary and causing grievous bodily harm.

In a statement read to the court, Tia's mother Natalie Sharp said: "I gave the ultimate trust to Stuart.

"Sometimes I feel pity, that I want to hurt him, but I can never hurt him like he has hurt me.

"She was mine and no-one else's. I had someone to love."

'Extremely distressing'

Tia's father, Steven Carter, said Hazell should "serve his time and be hung".

Image caption Tia Sharp was reported missing on 3 August

"I do not see today's events as justice for Tia, merely a legal conviction," he said.

Det Ch Insp Nick Scola said the conviction would, "I hope, bring some closure for her family who have seen justice served.

"However, Hazell's conviction will never bring Tia back and her family will have to live with her loss for the rest of their lives."

Alison Saunders, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "This is an extremely distressing time for the family.

"I hope that this prosecution and the result can provide them with some small crumb of comfort in what has been a terrible time for them."

'Only brave decision'

Lord Carlile QC, mitigating, told the court that Hazell was a man "who has an extraordinary capacity for living through lies".

"The easiest thing for Stuart Hazell to do would have been to brazen out the rest of this case, possibly, or not to give evidence.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe police and CPS condemned the "grotesque" and "appalling" attack

"His decision to plead guilty today is probably the bravest decision he's ever made in his life. Perhaps the only brave decision," he said.

The prosecution said Hazell had a sexual attraction to the schoolgirl.

The jury had been shown an image of a child alleged to be Tia, dead on a bed at her grandmother's house in New Addington.

Blood could be seen on the bed linen in the picture, said to have been taken in the early hours of 3 August, when prosecutors say Tia died.

Jurors heard two memory cards were found in the house, one in the kitchen and one, hidden on top of a doorframe, which contained "extensive pornography" featuring young girls.

There were also video clips and 11 still images of Tia sleeping.

'Significant sexual offence'

The trial was read a letter written by Hazell to his father from prison saying he had made "one mistake" and his "whole world collapsed" .

The letter was headed with the words "forgive me" and a picture of a sad face.

It read: "What happened I will explain in time, but put it this way, it was an accident and I panicked."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSteven Carter: "He should serve his time then be hung"

Andrew Edis QC for the prosecution told the court: "We do not know and never will know what took place in that house that night.

"But it is clear that Hazell committed a significant sexual offence against her, killed her, took her photograph as some form of keepsake, and then in quite a calculated way wrapped up the body and got it up to the loft."

During the hunt for missing Tia, Hazell said she was "like my own daughter".

He described Tia as "a happy-go-lucky golden angel" and said there had been no problems at her "loving home" before she vanished.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites