A neighbour of the grandmother of Tia Sharp was today convicted of wasting police time by giving a false statement that he had seen her alive.
Bus driver Paul Meehan, 40, who lived next door to Christine Bicknell and her murderer boyfriend Stuart Hazell, told detectives investigating the schoolgirl's disappearance he saw her walk past his home in New Addington on August 3 last year.
He told officers he was "100% sure" he saw her but the 12-year-old was already dead.
Today, at Croydon Magistrates' Court, Meehan was convicted of "causing wasteful employment of the police by making a false report".
Hazell was jailed in May for a minimum of 38 years for killing Tia.
The court heard there was no suggestion Meehan was in league with Hazell.
Meehan remained impassive as the verdict was delivered.
However, as the hearing adjourned he sat down and buried his head in his hands.
The last confirmed sighting of Tia was on Thursday August 2 at 4.30pm.
She was murdered some time that night going into the following morning.
On Monday August 6 as the missing 12-year-old's family were frantic with worry, Meehan told police he had seen her walk past him the previous Friday while he was in his garden.
He gave a detailed and “vivid” description of what she was wearing, the court heard, which delayed police from interviewing Hazell earlier.
But police had spoke to Meehan about the case three times before he finally said he saw her.
His explanation is that he “confabulated” seeing her - his brain mistakenly filled in the blanks in good faith.
Jocelyn Ledward, prosecuting, said Meehan had “deliberately lied” possibly to put himself in an important position in what was then a missing persons inquiry.
She said it was possible that he was attention seeking and was “puffed up” by being important to the inquiry.
District Judge Karen Hammond said Meehan was unreliable.
She said: “I am satisfied so that I am sure, that is to say, beyond reasonable doubt.
“The offence is made out.
“The verdict therefore can only be one of guilty.”