A jury at the Old Bailey were shown the last moving images recorded of Tia Sharp, 12, before she was allegedly murdered by her stepgrandfather Stuart Hazell who denies the charge and whom the court heard was “idolised” by the schoolgirl.
Hazell, 37, is accused by the prosecution of sexually assaulting Tia, killing her, and then concealing her body in a loft where she lay undiscovered despite police searches for a week afterwards.
On day two of the trial, in the number one court of the Central Criminal Court, the jurors were shown CCTV of the pair meeting at Gravel Hill train station on the afternoon of August 2, after getting off a tram, shopping in a branch of the Co-op supermarket and travelling on a T31 bus.
Hazell shared the house in New Addington with Tia’s grandmother Christine Bicknell. The forensic details of how Tia’s body was discovered by police have proved distressing for her mother Natalie Sharp who felt she had to leave the courtroom today.
Hazell formally denies the murder charge relating to the period between August 2 and 10 last year and the prosecution say his case is that Tia died from an accident when falling down the stairs.
Tia’s grandmother, Christine Bicknell, made a statement which was read to the jury. She said that her granddaughter idolised her former partner and she said: “The majority of the time he has her more than what I do. She is his cling-on.”
“When Tia went missing it didn’t cross my mind that she could be dead. I always thought she was coming home. It didn’t cross my mind that he would hurt her. He loved Tia, she idolised him,” she said.
She said Tia would frequently stay at her house, that all all her grandchildren “loved him to pieces” and Tia would frequently ask Hazell to stay before she got round to asking her.
Christine Bicknell said: “Tia was not the sort of girl you could groom. She was a mouthy 12-year-old – you couldn’t force her to do anything.” She said her former partner did not have access to the Internet and she had never known him to download pornography on his phone.
Phone records indicated that Tia arranged to meet Hazell at a station in Croydon on August 2. Christine had heard her granddaughter laughing in the background when she spoke to him on the phone that evening.
The prosecution allege Hazell called Tia’s mobile after he had killed her. After she was reported missing, the house was searched several times, including the loft on two occasions, but without success. The second of the loft searches had even been by an officer with specialist training.
It was only when officers detected decomposition a week later that the body was located, wrapped in bin bags.
In her statement read out to the court by Jocelyn Ledward, one of the prosecuting barristers, Christine said Hazell could get “argumentative” after drinking vodka, and she had told him not to consume it in the house. He would drink lager and smoke two cannabis joints per day.
Hazell is pleading not guilty and the trial continues this week with the presentation of prosecution evidence.