|Ian Huntley||The Algebra of Justice|
THE CASE OF THE CLUELESS SNIFFER DOGS – Stuart Hazell
On the 10th anniversary of the Soham murders (actually the day before, on Friday, August 3rd, 2012), and during the national excitement of the London Olympics, 12 year-old schoolgirl Tia Sharp vanished after leaving her grandmother’s house in New Addington in south London to go shopping in nearby Croydon. The significance of this particular day is that a TV programme was scheduled to be broadcast that evening marking the 10th anniversary of the Soham murders, which was to feature victim Holly Wells’s father. The timing looked ominously significant and it soon became apparent that another such case was unfolding.
Three witnesses saw Tia Sharp leave her grandmother’s house at midday, including her grandmother’s boyfriend Stuart Hazell, who lived there. He had told the girl to be back by 6 o’clock, to which she had replied, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” as she left. The grandmother was not present.
The following Thursday, while the search was still on for Tia Sharp and her abductor, Hazell appeared in a TV interview himself saying that he had not had anything to do with the girl's disappearance, public suspicion having fallen on him because he was the last person known to have had contact with the missing girl.
Then a very strange set of events occurred. The police suddenly changed their investigation from that of an abduction and sealed off the house in which he and Tia's grandmother lived, including that of the neighbour, Paul Meehan, who was one of the witnesses that had seen the girl leave her grandmother's house that day. The police now concentrated their investigation among the bins and surroundings of the house itself, and inside it, despite it having been searched several times before, including with sniffer dogs, and despite the witnesses who had seen her leaving the house.
Then a very strange development happened. Having switched their search to the house, the police announced the next day, a week after the disappearance, that a body had been found inside the loft, which supposedly had been lying there decomposing in the August heat for a week.
Among the various odd circumstances of this was that none of the residents of these two houses had smelt anything, including the sniffer dogs earlier in the investigation, and that the body was miraculously discovered after what seemed like a most unlikely and inappropriate change in the investigation.
Media attention having switched to himself, Stuart Hazell was soon recognized by a member of the public buying vodka in a shop in Merton, and he was arrested and charged with murder, while Paul Meehan, the witness who lived next door and had supported Hazell's account of Tia Sharp's exit from the house, was bailed on suspicion of having assisted an offender.
This case consists of an abduction and murder of a schoolchild on the 10th anniversary of the Soham murders, the first since then, and a decomposing body in the loft which had escaped the nostrils of the residents and sniffer dogs, and which was discovered by the police only after they had astonished everyone by turning their search to the house itself. The only apparent justification that they could have had for this switch was that the girl had disappeared soon after leaving the house and had not yet shown up in CCTV surveillance records.
Witnesses had reported seeing a white van in the area bothering children the day before the disappearance, and earlier in the week, the police had conducted a search of a local wood 400 yards away from the house known as Birchwood. They had sealed off the entrances with tape and used sniffer dogs and long sticks to probe the undergrowth. If the body were to be found there, it would explain why she had disappeared so quickly, and the police would have been stuck with a body in an incident that resembled the Soham murders that the 10th anniversary commemorated.
The body was allegedly found in black bin bags, which resembles the Soham case, and it was wrapped in a black bedsheet, black being the colour of death and bad news. It seems unlikely that a bona fide killer would bother with this touch, unless it was to mark the Soham anniversary.
It was reported in the press that the sniffer dog that discovered the body had first sniffed at an area of carpet upstairs and then up at the ceiling under the loft, which indicates that the body was placed on the floor before it was put in the loft. But if this had been done otherwise than very recently, could the dog have spotted the trace of scent on the carpet given the smell from the loft? And if the body had been placed on the carpet soon after the murder, surely there wouldn't be any scent left there to trace?
One of the searches that involved sniffer dogs had occurred on the Wednesday, at lunch time, the day before Stuart Hazell's interview on TV, and two days before his arrest for murder.
The body was not formally identified until two weeks after the disappearance, using dental records, which suggests that decomposition was too advanced for a family identification when the body was found.
The police have apologized profusely for the errors of their investigation, but these excuses were made on behalf of the nostrils of the excellent Alsation breed and the police ground operatives, whose uniform was once iconic and represented Britain's evolving democracy as well as anything. Like their nation, they are being ripped off by Mrs Thatcher's free capitalism and its achievers, which are progressively replacing all the services and talents of Britain's democracy.
A few weeks before this murder, in July, one of the tabloid newspapers had commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Soham murders by featuring extracts from a book written by Ian Huntley's brother in which he expressed his hatred of him as the Soham murderer. If the Tia Sharp murder was committed by the real Soham murderer, this murder may well have been his response to that tribute.
Copyright David Dixon 2013
For the Ian Huntley case click here.