Tia Sharp murder: How net closed round killer Hazell

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Media captionStuart Hazell changed his plea on the fifth day of the trial at the Old Bailey

The country was in the grip of Olympics fever when 12-year-old Tia Sharp was first reported missing on 3 August 2012.

Among the news headlines of Britain's gold medallists celebrating, reports on the hunt for Tia continued to dominate.

And nowhere was her face more visible than around her home in New Addington, south London, where the whole community had come together to help find her.

Thousands of leaflets were handed out, with lamp-posts, shop windows and homes covered with them. Cars were even stopped as they travelled through the area by people asking if the drivers knew anything.

Members of search parties spent hours combing the woods looking for any sign of her.

Image caption The community of New Addington came together to find Tia

But her grandmother's boyfriend Stuart Hazell knew exactly where she was.

Sometime between the evening of 2 August and the early hours of the next day, Hazell had killed Tia and hidden her body in the loft.

The 37-year-old told Tia's mother Natalie Sharp and his partner Christine Bicknell that she had gone shopping in Croydon and had not returned.

'Come home, babe'

In the week that followed, attention grew and the focus began to move on to Hazell.

In an interview with ITV News, he said: "I know deep down in my heart that Tia walked out of my house.

"She walked out of there and I know damn well because she was seen walking down the pathway. I know she made that track down to that way.

"What happened after that I don't know and I wasn't the last person to see her, because the last person to see her was the one walking down the pathway."

Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Tia's face and sitting in front of a missing person's poster of her, he added: "It's not about me, it's all about Tia and we've got to get her home. I just don't know what more to do."

He looked into the camera and made a direct appeal to Tia, saying: "Tia, come home, babe."

But only he knew that she had never left.

'Shady past'

After he killed her, he wrapped her body in a sheet before putting it in bin bags and tightly securing it with tape.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said this "expert"-concealing of her body meant that her death was not an accident as Hazell had claimed.

In fact it took the police five visits before they found her. The first time they visited the house was when she was reported missing on Friday, 3 August.

The next day they checked the house and then a team of specialists carried out a search in the early hours of Sunday.

On the following Wednesday, a search dog attended to sniff areas that had not been searched before. However, the dog did not go into the loft as it had not been boarded, so was inaccessible.

Her body was finally found on the Friday.

Image caption The court was shown CCTV clips of Stuart Hazell and Tia Sharp entering a supermarket together on 2 August

The Met has since carried out a review and found human error was to blame for the delay.

Commander Neil Basu said: "The PC who searched the loft and a supervising sergeant were subsequently given words of advice.

"Both officers are devastated by their failure to find Tia and this case has deeply affected all those involved. The PC voluntarily decided to remove himself from search duties."

He said the search involved up to 80 officers who had to trawl through 800 hours of CCTV footage from the local area.

The media attention brought up Hazell's past, which included convictions for drug offences, burglary and possessing a machete.

In the interview, he said: "Everyone's got a shady past - that's 10 years ago, for God's sake."

But it was this attention that caught Hazell in the end as it meant he was unable to move the body from the loft.

Image caption Stuart Hazell changed his plea on the fifth day of the trial at the Old Bailey

The natural heat of the loft, coupled with the warm summer weather, meant the body had started to decompose.

Ms Bicknell told officers to excuse the smell in her home, blaming her cat for the odour.

On 10 August, Hazell was drinking heavily. He knew he was wanted by the police. While buying vodka from his local newsagent, he was recognised by 11-year-old Chloe Bird.

She later told the BBC: "He was in the shop buying some alcohol and a lighter and he was crying to the lady behind the counter, and he was saying, 'I want Tia back, I miss her so much' and then he turned around to me and said, 'Do you know Tia?' and I said, 'Tia Sharp?' and he said, 'Yes, do you know where she is?' and I said, 'No, sorry'."

She then told her stepfather Nicholas Keeley, who called police and within five minutes Hazell was arrested.

The search, the manhunt, the trial may all be over.

But Tia's mother Natalie said the memory of what had happened to her had changed the whole family.

"When the trial is done it will be over, but it won't be for us."

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