Tia Sharp, the 12-year-old whose body was found in her grandmother’s loft last week, may have been smothered before her body was wrapped in a black bed sheet and bin bag and hidden.
The details emerged as Stuart Hazell, the grandmother’s partner, appeared in a south London court via videolink for the first time accused of murdering the schoolgirl, whose disappearance sparked a huge search by scores of officers and volunteers.
Mr Hazell, 37, remained at a south London police station for today’s hearing and was pictured on screens at Camberwell Green magistrates’ court sitting behind a table shuffling papers with a police officer standing behind him. He was wearing a blue t-shirt with some writing on the front, which was illegible.
He was accused of murdering Tia Sharp at some time between August 2 – the day before the girl was reported missing - and August 11. Mr Hazell spoke only to confirm his name, age and address and to say that he understood the charge against him during the three-minute hearing at Camberwell Green magistrates court. He will next appear at the Old Bailey on Wednesday.
No other family members were at the court today. Mr Hazell is the partner of Christine Sharp, 46, who was arrested on suspicion of murder but bailed until October. A neighbour, Paul Meehan, was also arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender and later bailed.
The body was found after a week-long search focused around the house on The Lindens estate in New Addington, south London, where Tia often stayed with her grandmother. Mr Hazell was arrested several hours later in south London.
Police apologised to the girl’s mother, Natalie Sharp, at the weekend after it emerged that the body was not found until a fourth search at the house. A dog team and a two-hour search at the small terrace house had both previously failed to uncover any sign of the girl.