Tia Sharp murder trial: Stuart Hazell jailed for 38 years

Stuart Hazell Stuart Hazell changed his plea on the fifth day of the trial at the Old Bailey

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Stuart Hazell has been jailed for a minimum of 38 years for killing his partner's granddaughter, Tia Sharp.

The 37-year-old had denied murder, but on the fifth day of his trial at the Old Bailey he changed his plea.

The court heard Hazell sexually assaulted and murdered Tia, 12, at her grandmother's house in south London.

The judge, Mr Justice Nicol, said he could not impose a whole life tariff as he was not sure Hazell's motivation was sexual or that it was premeditated.

He said: "Tia's mother trusted you to look after Tia. You have breached that trust in the most grievous way possible.

"Your guilty plea came on day five. You said you wished to avoid causing further stress to Tia's family. That is commendable, but they have had to endure four days of a very public trial."

'Shame and fear'

Hazell hid Tia's body in her grandmother's loft in New Addington last August.

Tia Sharp Tia Sharp was reported missing on 3 August

Despite four searches of the house, her body was not found until a week after she had been reported missing.

Hazell had claimed Tia died after falling down the stairs and breaking her neck, and he hid her body because he panicked.

The prosecution claimed he had a sexual attraction to the schoolgirl.

Jurors were shown an explicit image of a child, alleged to be Tia, which was said to have been taken in the early hours of 3 August 2012 when prosecutors say she died.

The court heard Hazell had previous convictions stretching back 22 years for offences including drug dealing, racially aggravated common assault, burglary and causing grievous bodily harm.

During sentencing, Mr Justice Nicol said: "I come back to the question of whether I can be sure that sexual motivation was involved in Tia's murder. I have decided that I cannot.

Tia's father Steven Carter raised his fist following the sentencing at the Old Bailey

"Sexual activity and conduct took place not long before her death, but in order for sexual motivation to be involved in her murder there would need to be a closer connection than that.

"Shame and fear of what might happen if Tia talked are just two of the alternative possible motives behind her killing.

"Because of the way you concealed her in the loft the family were subjected to agony. Time after time you spun a wholly false story that Tia had disappeared.

"I accept that none of your previous convictions were for serious violence. You have a psychiatric history of suicide attempts and self harm. Your coping strategies were drugs and alcohol."

"None of these matters is an excuse for what you did to Tia, but they are matters which I can, and do, take into account in fixing the minimum term."

'Hurt him'

As Hazell was led away, someone in the public gallery shouted "beast".

When asked outside court if she was happy with the sentence, Tia's mother Natalie Sharp said "no".

In a statement read out in court on Monday, Ms Sharp said: "I gave the ultimate trust to Stuart.

"Sometimes I feel pity, that I want to hurt him, but I can never hurt him like he has hurt me."

Det Ch Insp Nick Scola said he was "very pleased" with the sentence.

"Hazell will have a very long time in prison to think about what he has done," he added.

Croydon Council has said the house where Tia's body was found, along with two houses either side, will be knocked down.

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