AFTER nine months of lies Stuart Hazell finally admitted the terrible truth.
He did so, his barrister said, because Tia Sharp's family had "suffered enough". It is difficult not to infer he intended them to suffer four days of harrowing evidence.
On Monday, he changed his plea and admitted murdering 12-year-old Tia. In waiting until the fifth day of his trial, he snatched away her dignity as he had her young life.
His insistence that Tia's death had been an accident forced the prosecution to outline, in convincing yet horrific detail, how he sexually assaulted and killed the schoolgirl, then took a photograph of her body and hid it in the loft.
Her friends and family heard and saw horrors they could have been spared, and then had to endure them being repeated in newspapers and on television.
As Hazell was told he faced spending at least the next 38 years in prison, there were cries of "beast" among the cheers and sobbing in the public gallery.
The 37-year-old stood practically emotionless, much as he had throughout the trial, before being quickly taken to the cells.
Hazell had stared blankly, shaking slightly, as the judge Mr Justice Nicol described how he abused the family's trust "in the most grievous way possible".
"Tia was 12 years old when she died," he said.
"She was the grandchild of Christine, your partner. You had known her for many years.
"Christine says she idolised you. She was certainly happy to spend much time in your company and it was she who asked to come and visit you on that Thursday in August.
"She was a sparky girl who was full of life, but you took that life from her. All that lay ahead of her – a career, loves and a family of her own – will now never be.
"The loss has been devastating for her mother, her father and all of her relatives and friends."
Why and how he killed Tia, they may never know. Hazell may have confessed, but his silence denied them that closure.
What the prosecution did establish is that at some point in the early hours of August 3 last year, the former window cleaner killed a girl who thought of him as a grandfather.
He then wrapped Tia's body in a sheet, covered it with bin bags and hid her in the loft of the house he shared with her grandmother Christine Bicknell in The Lindens, New Addington.
His lies began when Ms Bicknell returned home the following day and quickly spiralled out of control, until 80 police officers and the entire community were searching for Tia.
Hazell, like the murderers he claimed to have nothing in common with, even agreed to a television interview, telling a reporter he would "never think" of harming Tia, adding: "I love her to bits. She's like my own daughter."
It was not until August 10, when the smell from the loft became obvious, that Tia's body was found and Hazell was arrested, after a two-hour manhunt.
The question of how long he should serve in prison focused on whether the killing had been sexually motivated.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC argued: "We do not know and will never know exactly what took place in the house that night, but it is the submission of the prosecution that Hazell committed a significant sexual offence against her, killed her, took her photograph as some sort of keepsake and then, in quite a calculated way, wrapped up the body."
The evidence appeared damning. Tia's blood was found on a sex toy found in Hazell's bedside cupboard and his semen was discovered on her duvet. Her DNA was found in blood on a belt in his bag when arrested.
Lord Carlile QC, representing Hazell, urged the judge not to impose a whole life term, saying that his client did not set out to murder Tia or find sexual gratification from killing her.
"We are not concerned with a man who, over a long period of years, has been interfering with large numbers of children, or indeed any other children," he added.
Mr Justice Nicol thought it "more than likely" a photograph of Tia naked on her bed had been taken after she had died then, horrifically, posed for his own gratification. Yet he could not be satisfied the motive behind the murder had been sexual.
Before asking Hazell to stand, the judge praised his late guilty plea and wish to avoid causing further distress to Tia's family.
"That is very commendable, but they have had to endure four days of a very public trial," he said.
"Although much of the evidence has been by way of agreed facts, the prosecution had to deal with the account of Tia's death which you gave to prison officers and your father – a wholly fictitious account of Tia falling down stairs and dying as a result of an accident.
"And so it was necessary for the prosecution to lay out for the jury your sexual interest in Tia and for the jury to see the photograph of Tia naked.
"Your plea of guilty has spared the family none of that."