Police have arrested the boyfriend of Tia Sharp’s grandmother on suspicion of murder following the discovery of a body at their home in New Addington earlier today.
Stuart Hazell, 37, was arrested in Merton, south London, at 8.30pm tonight after police were alerted by a member of the public. Earlier Scotland Yard had issued an alert for Hazell, saying: “A murder inquiry has been launched after a body was found at 20 The Lindens, New Addington, following a search of the property this afternoon. Inquiries are also underway to establish the identity of the body.”
They said that a post mortem examination would be held later, but gave no details about where in the house the body was discovered, a week after her disappearance was first reported. Some reports said the body was found inside the house, not in any outbuilding.
The body was found during a full forensic search of the house, the fourth conducted since the disappearance. Scotland Yard said tonight that her bedroom was searched immediately after she was reported missing and there had been two subsequent searches, including one using sniffer dogs on Wednesday.
Tia’s grandmother, Christine Sharp, left the property accompanied by police today. Earlier she had spoken publicly about Tia’s disappearance: “I don’t know where she has gone. I don’t know how she’s gone. She’s not staying away by choice, I know this,” she said.
When asked about the whereabouts of Tia’s step-grandfather, she said: “I don’t know, I don’t know where he is. Whatever way he is he has had it hard. She also said Tia’s mother, Natalie Sharp, had left Croydon. “She needed to get away,” she said.
Police interviewed Hazell as a witness for more than two hours on Wednesday, although he was not arrested and released after questioning.
Yesterday, in an interview with ITN News, Hazell issued a plea for for information about Tia’s whereabouts as police searched bins in the area.
Speaking about the morning she 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 mostly lived with her mother, Natalie Sharp, and step-father, David Niles, in Mitcham, but often stayed with her grandmother in New Addington.
When she left the house in August 3, she was not carrying her mobile phone or Oyster card and was only carrying a small amount of cash.
More than 80 officers are now working on the investigation. Public support for the search has been extensive, with the local community distributing fliers and posters around south London during the past week and a Facebook appeal for information.