On Friday, 3 August 2012, Tia’s grandma, Christine, returns home from work. Her boyfriend Hazell is sprawled on the sofa watching television. He tells her that Tia’s gone to Croydon to buy some flip-flops.
When Tia doesn’t return home at 6pm that night, Christine calls her mother, Natalie.
They both search for Tia. Natalie will later blame herself for not calling the police earlier.
But by then, it’s already too late.
Their little girl’s murderer accompanies them to the police station.
Hazell tells police he last saw Tia at around midday before she left for Croydon.
A phone call from a neighbour seems to corroborate Hazell’s story – so instead of a possible murder inquiry, it remains far longer a missing persons investigation.
The police search Hazell and Christine’s flat as part of their missing person’s investigation.
Tia’s body is not found:
“A simple human error, from an officer who was inexperienced and perhaps not properly trained for that role, had led to the body not being found. Knowing that the house had been searched without any result, it clearly helps you shape your investigative strategy. You look for lines of enquiry that points away from the house.”
Nick Scola, Detective Chief Inspector
“I found it physically hard to believe that Tia had gone missing and not one person saw her...(it’s) such an entwined estate. It was just like she walked out the door and fell down a hole.”
As the local story of a little missing girl goes national, Hazell leads the search wearing a T-shirt with her photo on it. At one point, he looks directly into the camera and says:
“Tia, come home babe.”
The police search his house again: This time, with dogs. Christine has to excuse a bad smell in the house, blaming her cat.
Still no body is found.
The police search through 800 hours of CCTV footage. They exhaustively examine the 55 sightings reported by members of the public. But after Hazell – and the sighting by the neighbour - the trail goes cold.
Feeling like he’s the main suspect, Hazell gives an interview to ITV news stating his innocence.
He consoles and supports Christine:
“When I collapsed, he held me. He was there constantly, everywhere I went.”
When the couple went home, however, they were sitting just 12 feet below the decomposing body of Tia. And when she’s not there, Hazell returns to his online viewing of indecent pornography.
But with police searches inside the house, and the media permanently outside, and Tia’s body decomposing upstairs, Hazell is trapped. He needs to move her body.
On 10 August, early Friday morning, Hazell wakes early and leaves the house.
“I got up and the smell was really intense. Once again, I was looking and I just couldn’t find it, and I was pulling everything out, but I just could not find the smell. And then, when the police turned up, that’s when they just said to me, can we leave the house?”
On 10 August, a week after she’d been reported missing, Metropolitan Police find the body of missing 12 year old, Tia Sharp. She had all along been in the loft of her grandmother’s house, in New Addington, South London.
The hot weather has accelerated decomposition.
Dental records are needed to confirm it is Tia.
And the decomposition means it now will never be possible to identify how she was killed.