Police have arrested the grandmother of Tia Sharp, her boyfriend and a neighbour, following the discovery of a body at the grandmother’s house in New Addington on Friday August 3.
Police arrested Christine Sharp, 47, and Stuart Hazell, 37, on suspicion of murder. A 39-year-old man thought to be Sharp’s neighbour, Paul Meehan, was also arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.
Hazell was arrested in Merton, south London, following a brief man hunt. He was recognised by a member of the public who called 999.
Police found a body at Christine Sharp’s house in The Linden’s estate in New Addington on Friday uring a pre-planned forensic search of the property. The body has yet to be identified and a post-mortem examination is pending.
The discovery was made during their fourth search of the home. Questions are now being asked about why the investigation had failed to find the body in previous searches, including on Wednesday, when a sniffer dog entered the home.
Commander Neil Basu last night acknowledged the concern saying that there would be “many questions about the investigation into Tia’s disappearance.”
“When Tia was first reported missing, officers searched her bedroom as is normal practice in a missing persons enquiry,” he said. “A further search of the house took place in the early hours of Sunday morning by a specialist team. This was then followed by another search of the house by specialist dogs on Wednesday lunchtime.”
Police do not know whether the body had been moved. “What we now need to establish is how long the body had been in the place where it was found,” said Basu.
Hazell was interviewed by police as a witness on Wednesday evening for about two hours and Sharp was questioned yesterday, prior to her arrest. Both Hazell and Sharp spoke to the press earlier this week, pleading for Tia to return home.
Christine Sharp’s home and the surrounding block remain cordoned off today, as police continue their forensic examination of the scene.
Police helicopters continue to buzz over New Addington and search teams spent this morning continuing to sift through bins in the neighbourhood looking for clues. Police from Manchester, who had been stationed in London to cover the Olympics, were guarding the large cordon.
The mood on the estate was sombre this morning as neighbours awoke to the news. ‘Missing’ posters showing a smiling Tia remain on lamp posts in the area.
A tribute at the bus stop near to her home had been cleared away today and candles moved to a large makeshift memorial at the end of the path, next to the house in which she was found. Friends and local people have placed flowers and soft toys at the memorial site and a steady stream of mourners continue to visit.
Each card echoes the same sentiment, one read: “RIP Tia, Sleep well angel.”
Neighbours have expressed shock and anger at what had happened. Garret, a 24-year-old who lives in the block across the road from Christine Sharp’s home in The Lindens, said: “I think it’s disgusting – for it to happen in your area. You see it on TV and hear these things but for it to happen, literally next door – it’s sad.”
Another neighbour, Francesca, a 19-year-old student who also lives on the estate, had been helping with the search for Tia. “I was [helping with the search], but I was in Mitcham, looking with my boyfriend,” she said. “It’s not often you see your house on the news, you know. Honestly, I’m disgusted. It’s weird seeing it outside your doorstep. It’s horrible.”
A large search took place across south London during the week, with residents and neighbours distributing posters and fliers and helping police to scour woodlands near to where Tia was last reported to have been seen.
Tia was reported missing by her family last Friday evening, with Hazell saying she had left the house to head into Croydon to buy shoes. A missing persons investigation was launched but questions began to emerge as CCTV footage failed to provide any sightings of Tia.
The investigation became a murder inquiry yesterday after the discovery of a body.
Missing Tia Sharp: Timeline of events
August 2: Tia visits the Co-op store in New Addington, Croydon around 4.15pm and is captured on CCTV
August 3: Tia was said to have slept late and left her Grandmother’s house in The Lindens, New Addington around midday after saying goodbye to her Grandmother’s boyfriend, Stuart Hazell. The family raise the alarm around 6pm.
August 4: Police search begins to focus on CCTV as the search for Tia gets under way in earnest. Family and friends take to social media to raise the profile of their search.
August 5: Celebrities begin to join the campaign to search for Tia. Local residents and friends set up Facebook groups, print posters and fliers and take to the streets to look for signs of the missing girl. Tia’s family make a public plea for information as no confirmed sightings of her on CCTV footage after her disappearance are forthcoming.
August 6: Police release CCTV footage of Tia taken on August 2 and encourage the public to come forward with sightings of Tia.
August 7: The Sun newspaper offers a reward for information that leads to Tia being found. The police search continues, with officers scouring local woodland area, Birch Wood.
August 8: After speaking with the family for around an hour police return with a dog and search the home where Tia was last seen before she went missing. Stuart Hazell is taken in by two plain clothes officers to help police with his statement. He speaks to police for around two hours before they return him to his home.
August 9: Police search bins around Christine Sharp’s home as their search continues. They also consult other forces, including the officers who worked on the Sharon Matthews fake kidnapping case. A witness comes forward and says he saw Tia leaving Christine Sharp’s home around midday. Hazell gives an interview to ITN news and makes an emotional plea for Tia to return.
August 10: Police search Sharp’s home again and leave with evidence in bags, the return with a sniffer dog. Christine Sharp leaves with police to give further evidence and police undertake a full forensic search of the property. A body is found and a manhunt is launched for Stuart Hazell who is recognised by a member of the public and arrested in Merton. Two further arrests are made, one for murder and one for aiding an offender.
August 11: Questioning of Stuart Hazell continues. Police continue to search bins in the area around The Lindens and the forensic examination of the crime scene continues. A tribute to Tia near Christine Sharp’s home grows as local residents mourn the girl.