New Addington window cleaner, Stuart Hazell, 37, has been a jailed for life with a recommendation he serves at least 38 years at his Old Bailey sentencing hearing for murdering 12 year old Croydon schoolgirl Tia Sharp in August last year.
Somebody cried “Beast” from the public gallery as he was quickly taken down to the cells.
Mr Justice Nicol told him: “She was a sparky girl who was full of life but you took that life from her. All that lay ahead of her – a career, loves and family of her own – will now never be. And the loss of her has been devastating for her mother, her father and all her relatives and friends.”
“The tragedy of their loss and her death is because of your act in murdering Tia Sharp. You are responsible,” he added.
The judge said he had to make a difficult assessment on whether he could be sure it was a sexually motivated murder. Pathologists could not be absolutely sure of the cause of her death and the judge needed to have evidence beyond reasonable doubt in order to impose a whole life term.
The scientific evidence was not definitive.
The judge said Hazell had taken away the life of somebody who had trusted him. He had grievously breached the trust of her family.
The judge said Hazell’s position was aggravated by his late guilty plea, and the fact he had concealed Tia’s body for seven days after murdering her. He had added to her family’s agony and suffering.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Nick Scola, of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said: “I am very pleased at today’s sentence. A minimum of 38 years is satisfying for both the investigating team and Tia’s friends and family.
“Hazell will have a very long time in prison to think about what he has done,” he added.
During the plea of mitigation for Hazell defence QC Lord Carlile argued his client had “neither planned Tia’s murder, nor displayed any longstanding tendency towards sexual crimes against children.” He sought to persuade the judge that the starting point for a minimum sentence should be 30 years, rather than a whole life tariff.
Yesterday Tia’s father, Steven Carter, said he hoped Hazell would serve his sentence and then receive capital punishment for the vile things he had done to his daughter.
By changing his plea to guilty yesterday on the 5th day of the trial, Hazell had forced his victim’s family to listen to distressing and detailed evidence.
His decision may mean Tia’s family will never get to hear his explanation of what happened to the schoolgirl.
Tia’s mother Natalie Sharp said in her impact statement that she wishes he would answer her questions.
She said: “When I was told Tia had gone missing I always believed that she would come back. At the very worst I thought I’d have to face the fact that someone had touched her and scared her and hurt her. I never really considered that she would be dead. How could I? Worse still was the false hope from the hoaxer who said they had her. I thought she was coming back.”
There were emotional scenes in the number two court of the Old Bailey. As the sentence was announced gasps, sobs and cries of “yes” could be heard from members of Tia’s family.
During the sentencing hearing the judge heard that Hazell had an insecure background, grew up in care, lived rough on the streets, and developed an addiction to alcohol in his early teens.
The court heard he was a youth offender. He claimed he was the victim of rape in a Soho hostel at the age of 16. He has a history of depression, self harm and suicide bids.
For most of his life he has been a petty criminal serving short periods in prison, though in 2003 he was sentenced to almost three years for dealing in cocaine.
Chief Superintendent David Musker, borough commander of Croydon Police, said in reaction to the sentence: “This is a deeply tragic case and I would like to express my sincere condolences to Tia’s family and the wider community of New Addington and Fieldway.
“Stuart Hazell has rightly been convicted of this heinous crime on overwhelming evidence. I would like to thank all those in the local community who have supported and assisted Tia’s family and the police to bring about this successful prosecution. Justice has been done. I would ask the local community for calm and sober reflection to honour Tia’s memory,” he added.