POLICE hunting for missing 12-year-old Tia Sharp have found a body at her grandmother’s house.
Scotland Yard said a murder inquiry had been launched after the discovery “following a search of the property this afternoon”.
Police also said they were searching for Tia’s grandmother’s partner Stuart Hazell and warned the public not to approach him.
A spokesman said: “We are seeking to find Stuart Hazell to be interviewed in connection with this case.
“He should not be approached and if seen people should call 999 immediately.
“There have been no arrests in connection with this investigation at this time.
“The family of Tia Sharp has been informed of the discovery.”
Locals, who had congregated near the scene during the day, grew in number as news broke of the body’s discovery.
They expressed their horror at the news.
Alston Millington, 32, said: “Personally, I was hoping she had a bit of trouble at home and had run off, rebelling against the family maybe.
“I was hoping she would be found somewhere with somebody.
“It is very hard to get out of Addington without being seen in either a car, tram or bus.
“It is such sad news.
“I live just around the corner and can’t believe it.
“I think it’s disgusting.
“Everybody around here knew she wasn’t far from the house.
“It makes me sick.”
The grim announcement about the body came just a few hours after police began a forensic search of Tia’s grandmother Christine Sharp’s terraced house.
Hazell, who was interviewed by police as a witness on Wednesday but then released, claimed Tia had set off for the Whitgift Centre in Croydon last Friday to buy flip-flops having spent Thursday night alone with him while her grandmother was at work.
He later claimed another witness saw Tia leaving the house shortly after midday although police said that sighting had not been confirmed.
In an interview with ITV News yesterday, Hazell issued a plea to Tia to come home.
Referring to the finger being pointed at him, he said: “Well if they believe what they read in the papers they can believe whatever they like cos I know deep down in my heart that Tia walked out of my house, she walked out of there.
“I know damn well she was seen walking down the pathway, she made her way down that track, what happened after that I don’t know and I wasn’t the last person to see her cos that was the one walking down the pathway.”
Hazell reportedly has a criminal record including offences of theft, handling stolen goods and dealing drugs.
Asked about his past, he told reporters: “Everyone’s got a shady past. My previous has nothing to do with it.”
He dismissed claims that his father had contradicted his version of events. His father, Keith, earlier claimed that his son had walked her to the tram stop.
Mr Hazell said: “My dad likes a drink, he’s got good intentions but he said everything back to front.
“If I’d have walked her to the tram stop I would have come with her to Croydon then none of this would have happened.”
Mrs Sharp, who was left from her home with police shortly before today’s search began, told reporters this morning her boyfriend was out helping in the search.
Mrs Sharp was driven away from the estate by police officers this morning.
A cordon was later placed around the house on The Lindens, New Addington, near Croydon, south London, and white-suited forensics officers were seen going inside.
Until then, journalists had been able to approach the house, where Mrs Sharp, 46, lives with Hazell, 37, although at times reporters were met with hostility from family members.
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”.
She said: “We’ve all done our own little separate bit and Stuart’s out doing that now.”
Asked what he was doing, she said: “I don’t know, I don’t know where he is.
“Whatever way he is, he has had it hard. He knows the finger has been pointed at him. He knows this and it’s been really hard for him.”
Between 80 and 100 officers were involved in searches for Tia, including of the woodland near Tia’s grandmother’s house.
But the house itself was not fully searched until today.
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.
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 have not revealed where the body was discovered.
Officers were seen taking a ladder into the property this afternoon, sparking rumours that the body may have been found in the loft.
Resident Emma McKay said: “To be honest, I am relieved that it does not seem to be a stranger who has snatched a kid off the streets.
“I am sure someone will find Stuart Hazell.”