The father of murdered schoolgirl Tia Sharp has revealed the horrifying moment he realised what had happened to his daughter.
Tia was just 12 when she went missing from the home of her grandmother, Christine Bicknell, which she shared with her partner Stuart Hazell, in New Addington, south London on 3 August 2012.
Her body was discovered wrapped in bin liners in the loft after the property was searched for the fourth time by police.
As part of a new documentary for Channel 5, titled The Murder Of Tia Sharp: My Daughter, her father relived the moment he was told that her remains had been found.
Steve Carter, who had separated from Tia’s mother, Natalie, said: “I didn’t want to believe it, I didn’t want to believe it was Tia, but deep down you know that it is Tia because there was no one else that was reported missing.
“Why else would there be a body in that loft?”
Carter also revealed what was going through his mind when he saw Hazell in the dock on trial for Tia’s murder.
He said: “I wanted to for him to look at me so he could see the anger in my face and hurt that he’s caused to me and family and to what he’s done to Tia and the pain and suffering that he must have put her through.
“But he is a coward. He wouldn’t look at no one. He just had his head down. “
While Tia was missing, Hazell had made a show of claiming his innocence. He gave a now-infamous interview to ITV News, where he claimed she had left the house alive, insisted he had nothing to do with her disappearance and pleaded with for her to come home.
Tia’s body was found the next day in the very house Hazell had given the interview in.
She had been sexually abused and photographs had been taken of her body.
Mark Williams-Thomas, a former police officer turned investigative journalist, carried out the interview.
As part of the Channel 5 documentary, he explained why Hazell agreed to be interviewed.
He said: “Stuart Hazell said to me that he wanted to get his account across. He says the other thing was that there was a lot of pressure on him, there were people pointing the suspicion at him and he wanted to divert that. He wanted to say, ‘Look I’ve got nothing to do with this’.
“It wasn’t about sitting there asking him loads of questions. I knew that whatever he told me firstly would be poured over by the police. But, secondly and crucially, would probably trip him up.”
He added: “What I knew, what I believed is I was going to be interviewing a killer and it was as simple as that.
“And I had to make sure that anything I asked, anything he gave me, was both clear and could be used evidentially because I knew that this was likely to be used in court, because that’s where he was going to end up going, and therefore all of this would be poured over both by the prosecution and defence. And ultimately, of course, it was.”
Hazell was charged with Tia’s murder and five days into his trial at the Old Bailey in May 2013, changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.
He was handed a life sentence, of which he must serve at least 38 years.
The post-mortem did not establish a cause of death for Tia because the delay in finding her body meant it had decomposed. Although this meant there was never an official cause of death given, it was suspected by police and widely reported at the time that she was smothered.
A neighbour was also jailed for lying about seeing her alive when she was already dead.
“Attention-seeking” Paul Meehan, 40, told police he saw the 12-year-old walk past his house, when she had in fact already been killed.
The police faced criticism for taking nine days to find Tia’s body and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner at the time, Bernard Hogan-Howe, said that although this was down to “human error”, this could not be attributed to one specific officer. He also issued an apology to Tia’s mother.
The house where Tia was killed has since been demolished.
The Murder of Tia Sharpe: My Daughter airs on Monday at 9pm on Channel 5