Tia's 'beast' stepdad gets a minimum of 38 years
To shouts of "beast" from the public gallery and sobs from the family of his victim, Stuart Hazell was jailed to a minimum of 38 years at the Old Bailey yesterday after he admitted the murder of Tia Sharp (pictured).
A day after the 37-year-old window cleaner changed his plea in his trial for killing the 12-year-old he considered his granddaughter, he was told by a judge that he had breached the trust placed in him to look after Tia.
But Mr Justice Nicol stopped short of imposing a whole life tariff on Hazell because the judge said he could not be sure that Tia's murder was sexually motivated and pre-meditated.
During the trial it emerged that Tia's body, which was missed by police during three searches of the loft of Hazell's home, was so badly decomposed that a cause of death could not be established and evidence of sexual assault could not be ascertained.
Hazell, a convicted drug dealer who spent much of his childhood in care, changed his plea on the fifth day of his trial
The judge said he was certain that Hazell had taken a sexual interest in the schoolgirl.
It emerged that the alcoholic, who took pictures of Tia while she slept and images from his attack, had searched the internet using terms including "violent forced rape", "little girls in glasses" and "incest".
Mr Justice Nicol said: "There is no doubt that you had developed a sexual interest in Tia."
The judge said that Hazell's sentence included an additional eight years' imprisonment for aggravating features to his crime, including Tia's age and the abuse of the trust of her mother, Natalie, who had allowed the schoolgirl frequently to stay with the window cleaner and his partner, Christine Bicknell, Tia's grandmother.
The grandmother of the murdered schoolgirl said she was "cuddled and comforted" by the 12-year-old's killer, unaware he had hidden the child's body in the loft above them.
Christine Bicknell, who had been in a relationship with Stuart Hazell for five-and-a-half years when Tia died, said there was no evidence that she was "living with a monster", and said she felt she had failed her granddaughter.
"I spent five nights in that house being cuddled and comforted by the man I loved, praying for Tia to come home safely.
"But all the time Tia's body was above our heads, all alone wrapped in bin bags . . . and Stuart had killed her," Ms Bicknell told the 'Daily Mirror'.
Hazell drew gasps when he dramatically admitted murdering Tia, on the fifth day of his trial.
His previous denials meant Tia's family were forced to sit through days of disturbing and graphic evidence, including looking at a picture of her naked and put into a sexual pose after she died. Ms Bicknell rubbished Hazell's claims that his guilty plea was to spare the family from any more suffering, describing his reason as "sick and pathetic".