Search for missing schoolgirl Tia Sharp runs into fifth day

 

Police and worried community members are continuing to search for missing schoolgirl Tia Sharp five days after she vanished without a trace.

Teams of officers spent yesterday combing woodland close to where the 12-year-old was last seen while scores of local volunteers mounted their own hunt for the youngster, who disappeared after leaving grandmother Christine Sharp's home in New Addington, south-east London, at around midday on Friday.

The searches went on after Tia's distraught family made an emotional plea for her safe return.

Her stepfather David Niles said relatives were "in bits" and begged: "Just find my little girl."

The 29-year-old, who wore a Find Tia campaign T-shirt, said: "How would you feel if it was your daughter? I haven't slept in four days. Natalie (Tia's mother) is in bits.

"The whole country has helped us and is supporting us. The police have done everything."

Tia's mother said she feared her daughter might have been taken.

"We feel terrible," she told reporters.

"We think she's been taken but we just don't know. There's no CCTV."

Scotland Yard said the search for the youngster was "very much ongoing", while The Sun newspaper has offered a £25,000 reward for information that leads to police finding Tia.

Officers searched a local wood, Birchwood, less than a mile from Tia's grandmother's house in The Lindens yesterday afternoon.

Around 100 local people also gathered at Croydon Rugby Club and spent the evening searching for Tia without success. Some are expected to continue the hunt this morning.

Club secretary Sue Randall said: "Everybody wants to help, we're just pulling together to try and find her."

It is believed the last person to see Tia was Mrs Sharp's partner, Stuart Hazell.

But there seems to be confusion over whether he walked her to a local tram stop or the schoolgirl left her grandmother's house alone after saying she was going to the Whitgift Centre in Croydon town centre.

Mr Niles said: "The last time I saw her was on Thursday morning before going to work (at the family home in Mitcham).

"She had a friend stay over. She was good as gold.

"I know I am not her real dad, but I have been there since day dot. I have fed her and bathed her. I just want her home."

Mrs Sharp, speaking from her terraced home, said she hoped an image of her granddaughter taken outside the nearby Co-op on Thursday would jog people's memories and bring forward new information.

She also thanked the community for supporting the family but declined to speak at length.

Outside the house a solitary candle burned in a glass holder with a plastic bottle covering it.

Police have been scouring hours of CCTV footage but said they had not found any trace of the schoolgirl, who has never gone missing before.

Hundreds of "missing" posters have been distributed around New Addington and Tia's face looks out from most local shops and noticeboards.

At a bus stop close to her grandmother's house in The Lindens, well-wishers left dozens of burning candles and tealights with hand-written signs asking for Tia to be brought home.

PA

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
News
Cumberbatch spectacularly photobombs U2 at the Oscars
news
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

News
Will menus with calorie counts really deter junk-food addicts from eating junk?
i100
Sport
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
football
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
i100
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?