- Tower Hamlets
The ‘step-grandfather’ of missing Croydon schoolgirl Tia Sharp delivered a renewed appeal for information about her whereabouts yesterday evening.
Stuart Hazell, 37, issued the appeal in an interview with ITN news, where he also talked through the morning Tia went missing.
Hazell said: “She said goodbye, and I said, ‘well, make sure you’re back at six’. And she said ‘yeah, yeah’ and walked out.”
When asked if he did anything to Tia, he denied it vehemently: “No I b***** didn’t!” he said. “I loved her to bits, she was like my own daughter. It was that sort of relationship.”
Hazell said that Tia is a “happy girl”. “She’s got no problems at all,” he said. “She’s a happy-go-lucky angel.”
Tia’s uncle, David Sharp, issued a statement outside the home to reporters: “Just come home, there’s no trouble. Come home, walk through that door and it’s like back to being a normal family. There’s not going to be any changes, everything’s going to be happy like it should be.”
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Scholan also spoke to waiting reporters.
Meanwhile police search teams scoured the contents of neighbours garages for clues that may lead them to find Tia.
Over 80 officers are now working on the investigation including police from West Yorkshire.
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.
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.