Tia Sharp: Call for calm after armed man confronts group searching his garage
TENSIONS surrounding the hunt for missing 12-year-old Tia Sharp have led to an armed garage owner confronting a group who were searching his property.
It is understood the group were looking for the missing schoolgirl when they entered the lock-up in New Addington without permission.
The incident, which happened last night (Wednesday), has led Fieldway councillor Simon Hall to call for calm within the community.
He said: "I know people are desperate to help but we must allow the police to do their jobs.
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"By going on to other people's property without permission you put yourself and the owner at risk.
"You may also disrupt the police search because officers will be dealing with you rather than looking for Tia."
Police are yet to find any trace of Tia as the huge search operation enters is sixth full day.
There has been no official update overnight but in a message sent to local councillors Acting Borough Commander Rob Atkin said there had been "tension" on the estate on Wednesday night.
He wrote: "It would appear there are groups searching garages without the owner's permission.
"This has resulted in a male challenging a group armed with weapons which has been reported to us.
"Although we appreciate this is being done with the best intentions, we do have to respect other resident's private property and the offences of breaking and entering still apply."
A spokesman later clarified that the garage owner was armed but that the group was not. Police have yet to confirm where in New Addington the altercation took place and whether there have been any arrests.
Cllr Hall said he understood the public's frustrations but stressed they need for people to remain calm.
"Sometimes where there is no news or concrete or visible progress people feel the police could be doing more," he said.
"I know the people who are trying to help have the best of motives but we can't let that impact on the police operation.
"I don't know the full detail of what happened but if people go into private property then the owners are understandably going to react.
"The police are trained. They know what they are doing. So please, continue to help, but do not take the law into your own hands."
Stuart Hazell, the boyfriend of Tia's grandmother, was questioned by police for two-and-a-half hours on Wednesday evening.
The 37-year-old, who had not been arrested, was said to be adding to his statement and has since returned home.
Mr Hazell is thought to be the last person to see Tia before she left her grandmother's house at midday on Friday.
At a press conference at Scotland Yard on Wednesday, Police Area Commander Neil Basu said Olympic resources had been diverted to the search.
The 80-strong team, made up of 40 detectives and 40 specialist search officers, have analysed 120 of 800 hours of CCTV retrieved from buses and trams but have found no trace of Tia.
Specialist search dogs and police helicopters have been used to comb a 500 metre perimeter of Tia's grandmother's house, including garages, lock-ups, all public access areas, local schools and wooded areas.
Asked whether the search would be extended beyond New Addington, Commander Basu replied: "This is a vulnerable girl 12-year-old who has gone missing. I don't feel she would have left the area. As such we will be continuing the search where she was last sighted."
Commander Basu thanked members of the public for the 300 calls police had received during the investigation. There have been 60 possible sightings of Tia, each of which is being followed up.
He confirmed a witness had seen Tia leave her grandmother Christine Sharp's house on her own at approximately midday on Friday. It is thought she was heading to the Whitgift Centre in Croydon to buy shoes
Tia is still being treated as a missing person and, as a result, police have no suspects.
She is white, of slim build, 4ft 5in tall and was wearing glasses. She was wearing a yellow vest top with an image of an animal on the front - possibly of a cat or dog, tight faded jeans and black Nike trainers with a pink tick.
It is believed she had a small amount of money with her but no Oyster card. She did not have her mobile phone.
Anyone with information about Tia's whereabouts should call 020 8721 4005 or Missing People on 116 000.