Mourners to finally bid farewell to Tia Sharp at funeral today
FAMILY and friends of tragic schoolgirl Tia Sharp will finally lay her to rest today, following the release of her body at the weekend.
Mourners have waited for more than a month to let the 12-year-old rest in peace because the legal team of the man accused of her murder demanded a re-examination of her body.
This delayed the funeral for more than a week.
The Advertiser understands the most recent post mortem – the second after an initial police examination – also failed to find a cause of death.
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Stuart Hazell, the 37-year-old partner of Tia's grandmother, has been charged with murder but is yet to enter a plea.
Hundreds will pay their respects to the schoolgirl in a procession that is expected to pass her former school – Raynes Park High – before a private service at Merton and Sutton Joint Cemetery in Garth Road.
Tia's father Steven Carter spoke of his relief at finally being able to lay his "beautiful little girl" to rest. He said: "It has been a horrible, horrible long time.
"To know she has just been lying there and being able to do nothing about it has been tough for the whole family. The defence asked for a re-examination; that is why it has taken this long.
"It is hard knowing there is no cause of death because we still have no answers. But after we lay her to rest we can just concentrate on the court case and it will give the family some peace."
Mr Carter also claimed Tia's grandmother, Christine Sharp, has been cleared of any wrongdoing and was only arrested as a matter of routine because it was her New Addington home in which Tia's body was found.
He added: "Having known Christine for the years I did and knowing what I know now I'm satisfied she wouldn't have had any involvement or known anything about it."
The Advertiser also understands a structural engineer was sent to the house in The Lindens to check if the body could have been transferred between loft spaces.
Next-door neighbour Paul Meehan was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender. Mr Carter said he was the witness who testified to seeing Tia leave her grandmother's home on the afternoon she was reported missing.
Tia's father also revealed he understood Mr Meehan was in the clear after testifying to the sighting "mistakenly". He said: "It was possible he had seen her on the Thursday [the day before] and mistaken it for the Friday."
Mr Carter, who lived at The Lindens address with Tia's mum Natalie after she was born at Croydon University Hospital, will travel to the funeral from Northampton, where he now lives with his new partner and son Thomas.
He will be accompanied by his partner, mum, dad, brother, aunts and uncles.
Mourners attending the procession have been asked to dress with a black and pink theme.