Police have been searching bins at the house of missing schoolgirl Tia Sharp’s grandmother in New Addington this morning, as the investigation enters its seventh day.
Over 80 officers are now working on the investigation including those from the force in West Yorkshire who worked on the Shannon Matthews kidnapping in 2008. Scotland Yard said that they sought the expertise of the West Yorkshire police in handling missing persons cases.
Shannon was the subject of a month long search which resulted in the conviction of her mother, Karen Matthews and another family member for kidnapping the nine-year-old in a bid to claim the £50,000 reward.
A police spokesman today said: “This case is like the Shannon Matthews case. This is a missing persons case and we are putting all out resources into finding her.”
Last night police interviewed Stuart Hazell, 37, who is the partner of Tia Sharp’s grandmother. Plain clothes detectives arrived at the home of Christine Sharp at the Lindens estate at around 5:30pm and left with Hazell a couple of minutes later. He accompanied them to the station, returning home two and a half hours later.
Police stressed that Hazell “had not been arrested” and made it clear that he was being interviewed “as a witness.”
Hazell is thought to be the last person to see Tia before she went missing. Police have received over 60 reported sightings of Tia, although none of them could be confirmed. However, they confirmed yesterday that a witness had come forward and given a statement that she saw Tia leave her grandmother’s house around midday on Friday.
Earlier yesterday police arrived at the home in The Lindens and spoke with the family, updating them on the investigation. The family then left the premises so that officers could speak with Hazell alone. Two police officers and a search dog then searched the home for half an hour.
Metropolitan Police Area Commander Neil Basu said that they had searched a number of spots “within a 500 metre radius of Tia’s grandmother’s house, including garages, lock-ups, all public access areas, local school and wooded areas.”
Police were seen searching in Birch Wood earlier in the day, about a mile from the grandmother’s home. They have checked about 120 hours of CCTV footage so far, roughly a sixth of the total footage collected. As yet they have not been able to confirm a sighting of Tia on the tapes.
Tia normally lives with her mother, Natalie Sharp, and step-father, David Niles, in Mitcham, but often stays with her grandmother in New Addington. She has been missing since around midday on Friday August 3 after she left her grandmother’s home.
She was not carrying her mobile phone or Oyster card and was only carrying a small amount of cash when she disappeared.
Tia’s family have been reluctant to talk to the media in recent days but Basu said they “miss her dreadfully” and are “desperate for her to be found safe and well.”
Public support for the search has continued with the local community distributing fliers and posters around south London. A small tribute has been set up for Tia in a bus stop close to the home where she went missing and candles continue to burn.
The MP for Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, also urged locals to join in the search. “I’m the father of young children myself so I want to help. I’d urge anyone with information to get in touch with the police,” he said.