Missing schoolgirl Tia Sharp: grandmother’s boyfriend returns home following police interview

Stuart Hazell leaving his home in New Addington. Pic: Emma Jane-Burgess

The search for missing Tia Sharp continues, as the grandmother’s boyfriend returned home after being interviewed by police as a witness in the investigation.

Police officers arrived at the home of Christine Sharp at The Lindens estate in New Addington in Croydon at 5.30pm today and Stuart Hazell, 37, left with them a few minutes later

However, Hazell was released at around 8pm, following almost 2 and a half hours of interviewing with police. He was accompanied home by plain clothes detectives, who left shortly after.

Scotland Yard had maintained from the outset that Hazell had been interviewed “as a witness” and that he had not been arrested.

Hazell is reported to be the last person to see Tia before she went missing, although there are conflicting accounts as to whether this was at her grandmother’s home or at East Croydon Tram Station.

Police have received over 60 reported sightings of Tia, although none of them could be confirmed. However, they did confirm that one witness had given a statement saying that Tia had left her grandmother’s house at midday on Friday August 3.

Tia lives with her mother, Natalie Sharp, and step-father, David Niles, in Mitcham but often stays with her grandmother in New Addington during the weekends.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Scola from the Metropolitan Police said: “We know Tia was at her grandmother’s house and slept late on the morning of Friday August 3. She then left to get the bus. She told her grandmother’s partner she was going out. He was the last person to see her, that we are aware of at this time.”

Police had been searching the grandmother’s house earlier today. A police search dog and two handlers went into the grandmother’s home for around half an hour this afternoon. Police also searched nearby woodland again earlier this morning.

A total of around 80 police officers have been involved in the search for Tia, including officers originally posted to cover the Olympics. Police have so far searched about 120 hours of footage, roughly a sixth of the total CCTV footage that they have obtained.

A poster in Croydon appealing to find schoolgirl Tia Sharp. Pic: Emma Jane-Burgess

Public support for the search has continued.  A large Facebook group has been arranging for posters and fliers to be printed and distributed across south London.

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.

Meanwhile, Tia’s stepfather David Niles, 29, said that the family were “in bits”.  Although not Tia’s biological father, he said that he had “been there since day dot”.

“Just find my little girl,” he urged.

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