Tia Sharp 'idolised' murder accused Stuart Hazell

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Media captionTia Sharp was "very close" to murder accused Stuart Hazell, the court heard

Schoolgirl Tia Sharp "idolised" the man accused of murdering her, her grandmother has told the Old Bailey.

Jurors were read a statement by Christine Bicknell, whose former partner Stuart Hazell is accused of murdering the 12-year-old.

She said: "I always thought she was coming home. It didn't cross my mind that he would hurt her. He loved Tia, she idolised him."

Mr Hazell, 37, of New Addington, south London, denies Tia's murder.

Tia was found dead in the loft of Ms Bicknell's south London house in August a week after she went missing.

CCTV clips

It is believed the schoolgirl was killed between 2 August and 10 August, when her body was found.

Jurors were shown CCTV clips of Mr Hazell and Tia together after meeting at a train station on the afternoon of 2 August.

Image caption Christine Bicknell said her grandchildren were fond of Mr Hazell

The court heard that Tia had sent a text to Mr Hazell asking if she could stay the night at the house he shared with her grandmother.

Ms Bicknell said: "The majority of the time he has her more than what I do. She is his cling-on."

The prosecution alleges that Mr Hazell killed Tia following a sexual assault.

The jury was previously shown an image of a child, alleged to be Tia although the girl's face cannot be seen, on a bed at her grandmother's house.

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.

Video clips and images of Tia sleeping in her bedroom were also found.

Phone images

Ms Bicknell said she had not had any concerns about Mr Hazell being around Tia during their five-and-a-half year relationship.

She said Mr Hazell was not somebody she had "dragged in from the street" and "Tia was not the sort of girl you could groom".

She added: "I knew nothing about her death. If I knew, he could be dead - I would be inside because I would have killed him. I didn't know anything."

The jury has heard that Mr Hazell looked at indecent websites, searching for material on under-age girls.

But Ms Bicknell's statement said they had no access to the internet at the house and "he wouldn't have a clue how to do it, so he says".

She said: "I have been asked by the police if Stuart watched or downloaded pornography to his phone. I have never seen him do anything like that."

She said she had seen some images on his phone, but he claimed they had accidentally downloaded.

'Odour' described

Ms Bicknell described a "smell" coming from somewhere in the house the week after Tia disappeared.

Image caption Tia Sharp was reported missing on 3 August

"I had a quick check around and I couldn't find anything," she said.

The jury heard details of the unsuccessful police searches of the house where Tia's body was eventually found.

These included two searches of the loft, one on 4 August and a second on 5 August by an officer with specialist training.

Of the first sweep, a police constable said: "From what I could see the loft seemed very clear. I thought 'she is not hiding in here'," he said.

When the specialist team came in the following day, one officer said he would have recognised the smell of a decomposing body if it had been apparent.

The body was found after a detective noticed a smell of decomposition in the upstairs of the house and Tia's body was found in the "excessively hot" loft on 10 August.

Officers also found a Sainsbury's bag with a yellow top and grey trousers in it, the court was told.

Earlier the jury was told that Mr Hazell had told police Tia was wearing a yellow top and grey leggings when she went missing.

The trial will resume on Thursday.

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