The last images of murdered schoolgirl Tia Sharp alive were shown to a jury today, as they heard how she “idolised” her alleged killer.
A statement from the 12-year-old’s grandmother, Christine Bicknell – whose former boyfriend Stuart Hazell is accused of murdering Tia – was read at the Old Bailey. It said that when Ms Bicknell heard her granddaughter went missing last August it did not cross her mind that she could be dead, or that her former boyfriend could have murdered the schoolgirl.
“I always thought she was coming home. It didn’t cross my mind that he would hurt her. He loved Tia, she idolised him,” Ms Bicknell said in the statement read to the court by prosecutor Jocelyn Ledward. She added: “I love Stuart with all my heart, but my granddaughter always came first.”
Tia was found dead in the loft of Ms Bicknell’s south London home in August a week after she went missing. Detectives believe the girl was killed between 2 and 10 August.
Today, jurors were shown the last images of Tia alive that were captured on CCTV after she and Mr Hazell met at a train station on 2 August. The footage showed the pair walking along a platform after getting off a tram at Gravel Hill station, shopping in a branch of the Co-op supermarket and travelling on a bus.
It is claimed Mr Hazell murdered the schoolgirl that night at the home he shared with Ms Bicknell, before hiding her body in the loft, which lay undiscovered for a week. He denies murder.
Phone records read to the jury showed Tia arranging to meet Mr Hazell at a train station in Croydon on 2 August. That evening Ms Bicknell spoke to Mr Hazell on the phone, and heard Tia laughing in the background. Ms Bicknell said she had reflected on her relationship with Mr Hazell and had not noticed any particular changes in his behaviour.
Jurors heard that Mr Hazell was not somebody she “dragged in from the street” and that the pair had been in a relationship for five and a half years. Discussing his relationship with Tia, she said: “The majority of the time he has her more than what I do... She is his cling-on.”
Ms Bicknell said her granddaughter was “not the sort of girl you could groom,” adding that “you couldn’t force her to do anything”.
She added that Mr Hazell would occasionally get argumentative after drinking vodka, but had been told not to drink it in the house.
The trial continues.