Sunday 20 October 2019

Man accused of murder of schoolgirl Tia Sharp 'took photo of dead body', court told

Margaret Davis, Ellen Branagh and Alex Diaz

THE man accused of murdering schoolgirl Tia Sharp took a photograph of the naked 12-year-old dead on her bed, prosecutors alleged today.

Andrew Edis QC showed jurors at the Old Bailey the image that is allegedly of Tia, although the girl's face cannot be seen, on her bed at her grandmother's house in south London.

Blood could be seen on the bed clothes in the picture, said to have been taken in the early hours of August 3 when Tia died.

Tia's mother and several family members left the court visibly distressed as the case was opened.

Prosecutors claim Stuart Hazell, her grandmother's former partner, had a sexual attraction to Tia, and murdered her after sexually assaulting her.

Hazell, 37, who denies murder, shook his head as the image was shown.

Andrew Edis QC said that a sex toy with Tia's blood on it was found at her grandmother's house after she died.

He said: "The prosecution case is that Stuart Hazell had a sexual attraction for Tia Sharp, that there was some form of sexual assault, something of that kind, and that was the reason he killed her."

Mr Edis told the jury that they will have to decide whether Hazell is guilty of murder, or whether Tia died in an accident.

Tia died on the night of August 2/3, but her body was only found on August 10 last year, the court heard, in the loft at her grandmother's house.

Mr Edis said: "The issue in the end for you to decide will be this. Has the evidence made you sure that Tia Sharp was murdered or do you think it may have been an accident?"

The prosecutor went on: "What we know is that after she died he put her in the loft. That's not what you would normally do with someone who has suffered an accident. Generally speaking, if someone has an accident and you are concerned about their health you call an ambulance."

He warned jurors that they will find some of the evidence in the case "distressing".

Hazell, 37, of New Addington, south London is charged with killing the schoolgirl between August 2 and 10 last year.

Her body was found in the loft of her grandmother's house in New Addington, south London a week after she went missing.

Mr Edis told the jury of seven men and five women that the loft had been inspected by police twice before Tia's body was finally found.

"They only found it, I am afraid, because it had started to smell.

"It was quite well hidden. It has been moved up and then across within the loft space."

He said Tia's body had been "carefully wrapped" in a sheet first and then bin bags, then sealed with sellotape.

Natalie Sharp, the mother of Tia Sharp, outside the Old Bailey, in central London
Natalie Sharp, the mother of Tia Sharp, outside the Old Bailey, in central London

"As you can imagine, that's not a particularly easy thing to do with a dead human being, but that's what had been done."

The court heard that a total of two memory cards were found in the house, one in the kitchen and one hidden on top of a doorframe.

They contained "extensive pornography", the jury was told, including two "Grade One" images of young under-age girls, and two "extreme images" featuring bestiality.

There were also 11 still images of Tia sleeping, and three video clips of her sleeping in her bedroom.

Another image showed a pre-pubescent girl lying naked on Tia's bed, and there were "professional" pornographic images of young girls performing sex acts, the court heard.

Mr Edis said internet searches on Hazell's phone showed searches of a site that was popular with paedophiles, with searches including the phrases: "naked little girlies", "young, young girlies", and "schoolgirl nudes".

He said Hazell had also visited a pornographic website on August 6 - while Tia's body was in the loft.

Following a short break after the court was shown the photograph, Mr Edis told the jury Tia had her own Blackberry mobile phone and had used Blackberry messaging, or BBM, to speak to a friend until 12.42am on August 3.

"After that, the prosecution say, she did not use her mobile phone ever again," he said.

He said it seemed sensible to suggest she had died after that time, and told the court it is said that the photo of her allegedly dead on the bed was taken at the earliest at 3am - more likely at about 6am that day.

A pathologist who examined the body, as well as the photograph, said marks on Tia's body suggested that she had been moved after she had died, and "posed" into the position seen in the photograph, Mr Edis said.

Hazell's semen was found on the bed clothes, and trace amounts of sperm on nightwear, the court heard.

Mr Edis told the court: "First there's a dead girl in the loft who died in that house that night.

"Second, there's a photograph of an apparently dead girl taken in that house that night at three or six in the morning or thereabouts and taken, it would appear if she was dead, by somebody who wanted to photograph her in that state for the purposes of sexual excitement.

"She was, it would appear, injured at the time of the photograph, hence the blood."

He said there was also the sex toy with Tia's blood on it, Hazell's semen found in various places, as well as his interest in "young girls for sexual purposes" from his photographs and web searches, and his interest in Tia in particular, from the pictures and videos he had allegedly taken of her.

"Remember, that her grandmother was not by any means always at home when she would stay at that house because of her job," Mr Edis added.

"The prosecution say that this is clearly no accident."

The court heard that the press, police and local residents "laid siege" to Tia's grandmother's house in the days after she was reported missing.

Jurors were shown an interview that Hazell gave to ITN on August 9, in which Mr Edis alleged he was "playing the role of bereaved grandparent who wanted nothing more than the child to be found and to come home".

In the broadcast he insisted Tia was like his own child, described her as "a golden angel" and said he did not know what had happened to her.

Police officers found Tia's body after a number of searches of the house, when a smell became apparent, jurors heard.

Later Hazell told a prison officer that he was not "a nonce", and that Tia had fallen down the stairs while they were playing and broken her neck, the court heard.

Mr Edis told the jury it would hear all of the evidence, including "lies" allegedly told by Hazell, saying: "By the end of all that, members of the jury, the prosecution will suggest that you will be in a very good position to decide whether you are sure if this was murder or some sort of accident."

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