The family of Tia Sharp has issued a heart-felt thanks to the hundreds who have supported them following her disappearance and subsequent death.

David Niles, partner to Tia’s mother Natalie, said: “On behalf of our family I would just like to say a big thank you to the local community for their help and support during this really tough time.

“When Tia was first reported missing the messages of good-will we received really kept myself and Natalie going.

“Over the course of the next week we were overwhelmed by the reaction from local people who were offering their time and energy to find our little girl.

“To everyone who spent their evenings searching the streets or walking through the woods, to anyone who put a poster in their car window, or who handed out flyers on a street corner, from the bottom of our hearts we want to thank you.

“To all the people who laid flowers, cards and teddy bears in New Addington after the dreadful news of what happened to our little girl had broke, we can’t tell you how much those tributes mean.

“Having to say a final goodbye to our princess last week was without doubt the hardest moment of our lives. But, once again, we were comforted by the number of people who came out to give Tia such a wonderful send-off.

“The staff and children of Raynes Park High School and all of Tia’s friends in New Addington and Mitcham, you did our little girl proud.

“The number of people who have contacted us with messages of support has made it clear to us just how many lives Tia touched.

“As a family we are grieving, but that process has been made so much easier by the people and community around us.

“From myself, Natalie, Jack and Harry thanks again for all your support.”