Stuart Hazell pleads guilty to Tia Sharp murder

In Britain Stuart Hazell has changed his plea to guilty to the murder of schoolgirl Tia Sharp.

He had originally denied killing the 12-year-old and hiding her body in the loft of the home he shared with her grandmother in New Addington, south London.

Hazell hung his head in the dock as he changed his plea and jurors were asked to formally find him guilty. He was the partner of Tia's grandmother.

She had been missing for over a week when her body was found back in August of last year.

The 37-year-old, who also denied sexually assaulting the youngster, claimed she had died accidentally falling down the stairs. There were gasps from the public gallery and Tia's father broke down in tears as Hazell changed his plea to guilty.

Lord Carlile, defending, said Hazell wanted to make it known that "Tia's family have suffered enough and he did not want to put them through any further stages of this trial or this process".

Reporter Martin Brunt at the Old Bailey said "The charge was read again to Hazell - a charge he had denied at the start of last week. There was some hesitation when he was asked to plead but eventually, after two or three seconds, he said the word, 'guilty'".

"That prompted cries and gasps from the public gallery where Tia's mother and grandmother were sitting. There was surprise also from Tia's father."

"They clearly weren't expecting this very dramatic turn of events" he added.

Judge Mr Justice Nicol is expected to sentence Hazell later today. The trial, which was entering its 5th day, had been due to last 2 weeks.

Tia's body, which the prosecution said was "carefully wrapped" in a sheet and bin bags, was found a week after she went missing in August last year.

Jurors were told Hazell's semen was found on her bed and on her night clothes, while her blood was found on the belt Hazell was wearing when he was arrested.

Her disappearance sparked searches by police and members of the public but her body was missed during initial searches of the loft. Hazell joined the search and, in a television interview played to the jury, claimed he was "playing the role of bereaved grandparent".

The change of plea comes after 4 days of graphic evidence during which Tia's mother, Natalie Sharp, frequently had to leave the courtroom, visibly distressed.

The prosecution case included a photograph of a girl alleged to be Tia after she died.

Reporter Martin Brunt is at the Old Bailey and describes what happened in court.

"The charge - the indictment - was read out again, as it was at the start of this trial" he said.

"Hazell was asked what he pleaded. A week ago he pleaded not guilty. This time there was a pause, he seemed to hesitate - and then he said the word 'guilty'" he added.