Metropolitan Police HQ
Metropolitan Police HQ

There are so many sad details in the case of Tia Sharp's murder in her granny's house.

Like the fact that her killer Stuart Hazell shamefully and completely betrayed the trust put in him by the 12-year-old girl, who "idolised" the 37-year-old.

Or the fact that it happened in the home of Tia's grandmother, Christine Bicknell, who had let in Hazell into her own life - and now is plagued by regrets she didn't do enough to protect the girl.

Or most of all, the fact there is now a small person gone from the lives of her family and friends for good - never to return.

Maybe there is some comfort to be taken from evidence that Tia put up a brave fight against Hazell, smashing the glasses on the beast's face as he acted out his sick fantasies. But this is very cold comfort indeed.

With so much suffering amid such human depravity, it is easy to overlook the detail of the police's failure to locate Tia's body for a whole week beneath a sheet in the loft of Bicknell's home in Croydon, south London.

This could be an almost comic side-point - a slice of Keystone Cops policing which plays down to the worst image of our constabulary.

But it had a real impact. It gave Tia's mum Natalie Sharp false hope that her daughter had only gone missing and would soon return.

This was hope which was born of police failings and which was doomed to be dashed the moment officers actually did their job right.

Police dog missed the scent

Time and again the home was searched and officers drew a blank.

Eighty police officers were involved in the search for Tia. Incredibly, they searched the house no fewer than four times. On one occasion, even a police dog was involved - but it did not go in to the loft so never picked up a scent.

As a result, Tia's body remained unfound and the agony of her family was prolonged yet another day.

Finally, a week after her disappearance, the police were led to her makeshift tomb in the loft. The reek of decomposing flesh was so strong that is was glaringly obvious where she was. Officers had only to follow their noses to where Hazell had callously hidden Tia after his crime.

Following this unbelievable catalogue of errors, action was taken against the police officer who had searched the loft and also the sergeant who was meant to be overseeing the search operation.

Both were "devastated by their failure" and were given "words of advice", according to Scotland Yard. As it should be. But is it not also slightly churlish to speak of such emotions as "devastated" when Tia's family experienced precisely that, only much more acutely?

Scotland Yard says an internal review into the failings in the search for Tia have resulted in what it is bureaucratically calls "organisational learning points".

Commander Neil Basu said: "The Metropolitan Police apologised to Tia's family as soon as it became apparent that her body had been missed.

"While the police failure did not contribute to Tia's death, the [Met] deeply regrets that this error caused additional distress to Tia's family by prolonging the situation when it could have been brought to an earlier conclusion."

Let's all hope that Britain's top police force did search for answers and has learned valuable lessons to help in future cases.

Because the possibility of vital evidence being missed again should be enough to make everyone shudder should there be a similar case.