Published: 06:00, 16 May 2021
| Updated: 16:21, 16 May 2021
Siblings of a beloved "caring" teenager found beheaded and dumped in a bush have made a fresh appeal to trace his killer.
Brother and sisters of Ashley Dighton today called him "our umbrella in the storm and light in a dark tunnel," 14 years after his chilling death stunned Kent.
He had been partially stripped, a carrier bag containing his T-shirt and a missing rib was discovered 100 metres from the remains.
His shoes were found nearby but his trousers were gone.
Most disturbingly, he had been beheaded and was missing parts of both arms.
Both Ash's head and his killer have never been found.
"If we can find the people who did this we may be able to find Ash's head - so we can put him to rest," his family explained.
"He used to help people out, he never liked seeing people upset and he was our umbrella in the storm and a light in a dark tunnel.
"We believe Ashley had a traumatic childhood which led him to a bad crowd and bad influences, he didn't deserve what happened to him.
"We feel the person who did this to Ash knew him personally and that's why they have not been caught and how they have been able to stay one step ahead."
Ash's family has made numerous media appeals since his death to help generate fresh leads, but nobody has been charged in what is one of the county's most mysterious cases.
In a bizarre turn of events, coroners ruled they were unable to conclude Ash's cause of death because his partly decomposed body had been tampered with.
Det Ch Insp David Withers told Ashford's Coroner Court in 2007: "We cannot say how Ashley died but the evidence suggests someone attempted to cover the body with branches, and had removed clothes from his body, while it was in an advanced stage of decomposition."
Ashley's father Ambrose Dighton said he saw his son during a brief visit to the family home in Nine Acres, Kennington, to change his clothes on June 10.
Mr Dighton told coroner Rachel Redman he didn't report his son missing until June 21 as he was not concerned, as he often stayed with his sisters.
Scores of officers then scoured Ashford until his remains were found on July 11.
Police enlisted 100 officers on fingertip searches to hunt for evidence as experts studied insect life, but were unable to give an accurate date of death.
But Mr Withers told the court: "It was the body of a young man and the remains were consistent with a body that had been outside for about a month."
Pathologist Dr David Rouse, who attended the scene, explained the head and some upper limbs were missing but he was unable to deduce the cause of death.
Amanda Dighton told the court her brother stayed at her home on the night of June 10, with then partner Liam Walsh and Jason Farmer.
They all travelled into the town centre the next morning where a bottle of vodka was purchased.
En-route to the Warren Retail Park, Ashley got more vodka from Lidl and then onto Sainsbury's, where Amanda would see her brother for the last time.
"At Sainsbury’s Liam, my ex, got beer and Ashley wanted another crate but he put it back as he had not enough money.
"He went outside and that was the last time I saw him," she told the coroner.
"Even though he had been drinking I was not concerned for him and thought he might have gone to dad’s or his girlfriend's."
Security guard Lucas Brezezinski saw "a very drunk" youth outside the shop who he had identified from photographs as Ashley.
He was drinking from a bottle of vodka in a brown bag.
"He said he was OK as he sat on a bench and that he was going back home down the footpath," he told the court.
He was not abusive or looking to quarrel with me.
"He walked off and I followed behind and watched as he unsteadily went down the footpath and out of sight."
Four men were arrested at the time but released without charge.
In 2016, his dad Ambrose accused police of giving up on finding his son’s killer and said officers had stopped responding to his phone calls.
Mr Dighton has taken part in video appeals, featured in magazines and even made an appearance on The Jeremy Kyle and Trisha Goddard shows.
He also visited psychic Keith Charles, a former Metropolitan Police CID officer.
Ash's siblings continue their own appeal.
Shawny, 28, Amanda, 35, David 39 and Anna, 41, added: "We're appealing to anyone with information. If it leads to a conviction we will personally give them a financial reward.
"As a family we have been waiting for 14 years for justice and each day it gets harder."
Appealing directly to anyone with a fresh lead, they said: "We want you to put yourselves in our shoes, if you are scared you can message one of us directly on the Justice for Ashley Facebook page.
"Ashley had his whole life ahead of him - he had nieces and nephews that he will never get to know.
"Ashley was a lovely, caring, funny and kind man - he was full of life."
The family told how Ashley loved to dance and sing to Ska music and how they miss him keeping them awake with the karaoke machine.
"We even miss picking him up off the stairs and cleaning up after he fell face-first into a bacon and egg sandwich after having a bit too much to drink," they added.
Amanda explained Ashley voiced fears that someone wanted to cause him harm on the day he died.
But the family told KentOnline they feel ignored by the police when they present fresh information, and are turning to a private investigator.
A spokesman for Kent Police said: "The death of Ashley Dighton in 2007 remains unsolved.
"With cold case murder investigations, a periodic review is undertaken to see if there are new opportunities which may assist or when new information comes to light.
"When we have key developments we will work with the family to keep them informed.’