The barrister representing the man who killed schoolgirl Tia Sharp has told a court today that his client "probably did love" his 12-year-old victim.
Stuart Hazell (aged 37) dramatically changed his plea at the Old Bailey this morning and admitted murdering the girl in August last year.
Lord Carlile QC told the court that Hazell had not wanted to cause any more suffering to Tia's family by continuing with the trial, and so changed his plea as “an act of remorse”, in the “bravest decision” he had made.
He said he was not trying to “make excuses” and told the court: “There is no greater loss that can occur to a family than the loss of a child who is just about to enter her prime.”
Lord Carlile went on: “He did not embark to kill for sexual or sadistic motivation.
“Of course he accepts that whatever happened that night he killed her with the requisite intention to justify a conviction for murder.”
He said that there was not enough evidence to prove that Hazell had committed “very serious sexual misconduct”.
The 37-year-old did not groom Tia, Lord Carlile said, and any sexual activity took place “very near to the end of Tia’s life”.
He said: “One of the sad things about this case is that he probably did love Tia and certainly did love, and as we are instructed loves, Christine and he will have to bear for the rest of his life what he has done to the woman who is probably the only person in his life that he has really loved in a way that most people would understand that term would apply to.”
The father of the murdered schoolgirl said today her killer should “serve his time and then be hung”.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Steven Carter said he was pleased that Stuart Hazell had suddenly pleaded guilty to Tia’s murder, but did not see the conviction as “justice”.
The court heard that Hazell had a number of previous convictions.
These included convictions for racially aggravated common assault in 2002, dealing cocaine in 2003 and possession of a machete in a public place in 2010, for which he was jailed for 12 months.
He also had convictions for burglary and theft.
Hazell went into care at a young age when his father was in prison and his mother was working as a prostitute. His first conviction came when he was 14, and he claimed he was raped aged 16 in a hostel.
Mr Justice Nicol said he will sentence Hazell tomorrow morning.
Senior Investigating Officer DCI Nick Scola said: “The conviction today of Stuart Hazell for the murder of 12-year-old Tia Sharp in August 2012 will, I hope, bring some closure for her family who have seen justice served.
"However, Hazell's conviction will never bring Tia back and her family will have to live with her loss for the rest of their lives.
“Tia was murdered by a man who had gained the trust of Tia’s family and who, on that day, was tasked with looking after her whilst her grandmother was at work.
"Hazell abused that position of trust by planning an assault on Tia that ultimately led to her murder.
“The evidence was overwhelming and clearly Hazell realised he had no choice but to plead guilty. However, he put Tia’s family through a week of heart-breaking evidence in court and I wish for their sakes he had admitted his guilt sooner.
“Hazell is an extremely dangerous individual who poses a significant threat to young girls and it is only right that he should be imprisoned and removed from society so that he can no longer pose any risk.
“I would like to pay tribute to Tia’s family for showing such courage and stamina throughout this horrendous ordeal – from the time of the murder through to the conviction – and I truly hope they can move forward with their lives in the knowledge that Hazell will now pay for his crime.”