14 May 2013

Tia Sharp killer gets 38 years in prison

Stuart Hazell is sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 38 years, for the murder of schoolgirl Tia Sharp. Her father tells Channel 4 News it’s “no justice for Tia”.

Tia Sharp murderer Stuart Hazell sentenced to life (Getty)

There were sobs and shouts of “beast” from the public gallery as Hazell was sentenced.

The 37-year-old changed his plea to guilty on Monday, five days into his trial at the Old Bailey over the murder of 12-year-old schoolgirl Tia Sharp.

He originally claimed that Tia was killed in an accident when she fell down the stairs, but prosecutors said Hazell sexually assaulted Tia before murdering her and hiding her body in the home he shared with her grandmother, Christine Bicknell.

She was a sparky girl who was full of life but you took that life from her. Mr Justice Nicol

He was sentenced to life imprisonment for Tia’s murder, and will serve a minimum term of 38 years in jail.

Mr Justice Nicol said: “She was a sparky girl who was full of life but you took that life from her. All that lay ahead of her – a career, loves and family of her own – will now never be. And the loss of her has been devastating for her mother, her father and all her relatives and friends.

“The tragedy of their loss and her death is because of your act in murdering Tia Sharp. You are responsible.”

Justice for Tia?
Stuart Hazell was brought back into the dock of Court 2 at the Old Bailey at 1030 this morning, writes Channel 4 News reporter Jane Deith.

The eyes of the jury, the media, and of course Tia Sharp's family were on him - including Tia's mother Natalie Sharp, her grandmother Christine Bicknell and her father Steven Carter.

Mr Justice Nicol told Hazell he had taken away the life of a "sparky girl"; he had taken away "all that lay ahead of her - a career, loves, a family of her own."

The police in the public gallery handed out tissues to Tia Sharp's family, understandably moved to tears.

The judge talked about some mitigating features he had considered when deciding Hazell's sentence for murder: his unhappy childhood, the fact the murder was not premeditated, and his late guilty plea - but that came so late, the judge said, it earned him little credit.

There is only one sentence for murder - life imprisonment. But Mr Justice Nicol went further than the standard life term of 30 years. He told Stuart Hazell to stand up. Then he sentenced him to a minimum of 38 years in prison.

There were shouts of "yes" from the public gallery. One man yelled "beast!" at Hazell. Others sobbed. Natalie Sharp kept her composure. Steven Carter put his head in his hands.

Outside court, I asked Steven Carter what he thought of Hazell's sentence. "It's no justice for Tia," he said. "Justice would be if she were still alive."

Stuart Hazell is 37. He'll spend the next 38 years of his life behind bars. He'll be 75 before he will even be considered for release - and only then if it is judged he is safe to be back in public.

Tia’s murder

Hazell, a convicted drug dealer, murdered Tia when the pair were left alone in August 2012. He had been living with Tia’s grandmother Christine Bicknell in south London for more than five years and had also briefly dated Tia’s mother Natalie Sharp.

Hazell was sexually attracted to schoolgirl Tia, secretly filming her while she was asleep and putting cream on her legs. The police also later found that he had a fascination with child pornography and had searched for obscene material online including “violent forced rape” and “little girls in glasses”.

Evidence found in the house showed he sexually assaulted Tia before killing her on 2 August last year. The jury was also shown a shocking naked picture of Tia, which further condemned Hazell although it could not be proved it was taken after her death.

The judge said it was likely that Hazell smothered Tia to death, before wrapping her body in a sheet and layers of plastic and hiding it in the loft.

He added: “Your counsel says that you wished to avoid causing further distress to Tia’s family. That is very commendable, but they have had to endure four days of a very public trial.

“It was necessary for the prosecution to lay out for the jury your sexual interest in Tia and for the jury to see the photograph of Tia naked. Your plea of guilty has spared the family none of that.

“It may be the first act of remorse, as your counsel says, but because it comes so late I am afraid it will earn you only the most modest of credit.”

Tia’s remains were not found until a week after her death after two police searches of the loft. Scotland Yard has apologised for the error.