Along with the ongoing trial of Mark Bridger at Mold Crown Court for the murder of April Jones
, this case has been (hopefully) one of the most harrowing we will hear this year. Tia Sharp disappeared in August
last year from her grandmother's home near Croydon. The last person to see her alive was her grandmother's live-in lover Stuart Hazell, with whom she appeared to have an appropriate relationship. The photograph below is from CCTV released by the Metropolitan Police, and shows her with Hazell doing some shopping. Hours later, she was dead.
Tia's body was found in the loft of her home, but only after the police had already searched the house three times. This is not as bad as it sounds, because Hazell told them she had left on her own to go to the shops, and they had no reason not to believe him, but when there was no sign of her being abducted, they returned to the house en masse
and found Tia's body.
Initially Hazell had denied the murder, giving at least two mutually exclusive explanations of what had or might have happened. But although due to the body decomposing it was not possible for a precise cause of death to be determined, the police found other, damning evidence, to wit that Hazell had had a bizarre sexual obsession with the girl. He was said to have secretly recorded her in the weeks before her death, and to have photographed her body after he had killed her.
Today, after denying murdering Tia, Hazell finally changed his plea to guilty
on the fifth day of his trial at the Central Criminal Court. He did so, he said, to spare Tia's family further grief. Hazell had also written to his own father from prison, asking for forgiveness.
Hazell was a convicted drug dealer and had a reputation for violence on the estate where he lived, but Tia was said to have idolised him. Three years ago he was convicted of threatening Peter Wilson, a local public house landlord, with a machete. Speaking on the BBC news programme this afternoon, Mr Wilson said Hazell was "a horrible man".
Hazell will be given the mandatory life sentence probably later today; he can expect a heavy tariff.