Picture of girl’s body ‘found on memory card hidden at house’

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An indecent picture alleged to be of schoolgirl Tia Sharp was taken after she had died, a court heard.

The picture, which shows a naked girl on all fours on a bed but does not show her face, is claimed by prosecutors to be an image of the 12-year-old taken the night she was murdered last year.

It was found on a memory card hidden on a door-frame at the house Tia’s grandmother Christine Bicknell shared with Stuart Hazell, who is accused of murdering her some time between August 2 and 10.

It is alleged Hazell, 37, sexually assaulted the schoolgirl before killing her and hiding her body in the loft at the house in New Addington, south London, where she was found a week later.

Forensic pathologist Dr Ashley Fegan-Earl told a jury at the Old Bailey yesterday that in his opinion, the person in the photograph was dead when it was taken.

“When I saw the photograph, there were changes in the body that suggested to me the individual was dead,” he said.

He told jurors “irregular mottling” on the back of the thighs suggested the girl had been left lying on her back after death. But said it was not possible to say what caused Tia’s death.

“Considering the negative findings and exclusions including the toxicology, and taking into account the case as a whole as presented to me, some form of suffocation or chest compression would appear to be the most likely cause of death,” he told the jury.

But he said as he could not be sure, the formal cause of death was recorded as “unascertained”.

He said there was nothing to suggest that she had fallen down the stairs, as Hazell claims.

The court heard Tia’s body was found wrapped in a black sheet, covered by plastic wrapping secured with tape.

She was wearing pink and white pyjama bottoms, with a top that had the emblem “Little Miss Giggles” on it and a bra, both of which were rucked up.

There were no visible signs of external injury, but bruising or indications of suffocation would have been difficult to detect so long after death, Dr Fegan-Earl said.

He found no evidence of a brain haemorrhage, no evidence of compression of the neck, and none of her bones were broken. There was also no fracture of the neck, no bruising and no damage to the spinal cord. There was no pathological evidence of serious sexual assault.

Hazell, from New Addington, denies murder.

The case will continue today.