The week-long search for a missing schoolgirl takes a dramatic turn after police search her grandmother’s house
A manhunt has been launched for Stuart Hazell, the step-grandfather of missing girl Tia Sharp, after the discovery of a body.
Police found the body at the house of the missing girl’s grandmother Christine Sharp, which was examined by a team of forensics this afternoon.
A murder inquiry has been launched and Tia’s family has been informed of the discovery.
“The likelihood is that it must be Tia’s body,” says Sky’s Martin Brunt.
Mr Hazell, 37, was interviewed as a key witness earlier this week but then released.
Tia, 12, was last seen at Ms Sharp’s house last Friday. Mr Hazell, who spent the night before alone with Tia, is believed to have been the last person to see her.
Commander Neil Basu defended the police investigation, saying the residence was searched three times before today’s discovery.
“A number of searches took place at the address. When Tia was first reported missing, officers searched her bedroom as is normal practice in a missing person’s enquiry,” he said.
“A further search of the house took place in the early hours of Sunday morning by a specialist team.
“This was then followed by another search of the house by specialist dogs on Wednesday lunchtime.
“What we now need to establish is how long the body had been in the place where it was found.
“This will be subject of the ongoing investigation and it would be wrong to jump to any conclusions until all the facts have been established.”
The body was found about three hours after forensic officers entered the southeast London house.
Police have not revealed exactly where the body was discovered in the house.
Officers were seen taking a ladder into the property this afternoon, sparking rumours that the body may have been found in the loft.
Police covered the front of the New Addington house with a tarpaulin and a blue and white forensic tent was set up as examinations continued inside.
Earlier police cordoned off her grandmother’s house as they started the full forensic search of the property.
Tia’s grandmother Christine Sharp, 46, left the house with police as search dogs scoured a wooded area 400 yards from her home.
Before she left, Mrs Sharp said that Tia’s mother, Natalie, was “in bits” and that she did not know where she was as “she needed to get away”.
Locals, who had congregated near the scene during the day, grew in number as news broke of the body’s discovery.
Eileen Minogue told Sky News that residents on the close knit estate felt “betrayed”.
She added: “We’ve been searching woodland, we’ve spent two nights in the rain searching woodland, delivering leaflets.
“I feel for the friends and cousins, they’ve been trying to find support, trying to find her.”
Neighbour Chloe Hickie, 20, said: “I feel sick, I have just been told.
“I didn’t want to say it but I had a gut feeling because she hadn’t been seen for a week.
“It makes me feel sick to my stomach. I am in absolute shock.”
Police say a post-mortem will be held in due course.
Between 80 and 100 officers were involved in searches for Tia, including of the woodland near Tia’s grandmother’s house.
Scotland Yard had also been trawling through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage but had found no images of her after she was reported missing.