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Colin Ash-Smith accused of murdering Claire Tiltman in alleyway in Greenhithe in 1993

Schoolgirl Claire Tiltman was savagely stabbed to death in a "frenzied and remorseless" attack, a murder trial has heard today.

The 16-year-old was knifed no fewer than nine times in a dark alleyway in Greenhithe in January 1993.

A jury at Inner London Crown Court, where Colin Ash-Smith, from Swanscombe, denies murder, heard the killing was carried out by a "ruthless predatory armed killer".

Claire Tiltman was found dead in an alleyway in 1993
Claire Tiltman was found dead in an alleyway in 1993

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC said Ash-Smith attacked Claire "rapidly and stealthily" and gave her no time to defend herself or escape.

"This was a killing for the sake of killing," he said.

Claire had celebrated her birthday just four days earlier and was walking to her friend's house just after 6pm on January 18, 1993.

But she never arrived and was fatally stabbed in the alleyway off London Road.

The Greenhithe alleyway where Claire Tiltman was repeatedly stabbed
The Greenhithe alleyway where Claire Tiltman was repeatedly stabbed

Mortally wounded, she stumbled out of the alleyway and collapsed on a low brick wall.

People thought she had been run over, the court heard, but then realised she had been stabbed.

Claire died from her wounds to her back on the pavement.

The prosecutor said there was no sexual element to the attack on Claire, and nothing was stolen from her.

"Claire was a target for a completely senseless slaughter of an innocent young teenage girl, you might think for no better reason than the warped pleasure he derived from attacking a lone woman and the ultimate power and control it gave him."

Colin Ash-Smith at the time of his arrest for the knife attack on a woman in Greenhithe in 1995
Colin Ash-Smith at the time of his arrest for the knife attack on a woman in Greenhithe in 1995

The court heard a massive police investigation led to the identification of Ash-Smith, now aged 46.

In January 1993 he was 24 and had already tried to murder a woman by both strangling her and stabbing her in the back, and also attempted to rape her, in 1988, said Mr Altman.

He continued: "The killing of Claire Tiltman did not end his spree because in October 1995, the defendant attacked and stabbed another local woman."

This occurred just 360m from where it is alleged Ash-Smith murdered Claire.

Mr Altman said the 1995 attack was "seemingly motiveless".

Floral tributes to Claire Tiltman in London Road, Greenhithe in 1993
Floral tributes to Claire Tiltman in London Road, Greenhithe in 1993

After his arrest in October 1995, police found what were described in court as "assault plans" written by Ash-Smith some years previously.

They included details of the 1988 attack and planned attacks he had not completed.

The jury also heard that while in prison serving his sentence for the other attacks, Ash-Smith befriended and confessed to a fellow inmate that he was Claire's killer.

Mr Altman said the defendant had maintained his innocence of Claire's murder over the years.

But the prosecution claim his alibi for the time of her killing is false.

"Claire was a target for a completely senseless slaughter of an innocent young teenage girl" - Brian Altman QC

Mr Altman added that for both of the other attacks in 1988 and 1995, to which he pleaded guilty in 1996, Ash-Smith "sought at first to divert the police with lies and provide false alibis."

However, the jury was warned that the prosecution do not say Ash-Smith is guilty of Claire's murder based on his guilt for the other two attacks.

Mr Altman said there was other "compelling evidence" which, together with the facts of the other attacks and his character, would "identify him as the killer as well as reveal his disposition to behave in a certain way which is both rare and exceptional".

Ash-Smith spoke briefly at the start of the trial to plead not guilty to the charge of murder.

As Mr Altman began his opening, Ash-Smith, looking pale and wearing a beige shirt, sat in the dock flanked by three officers.

Above the dock and out of his sight, sat school friends of Claire's and relatives of the Tiltman family.

Earlier this week Ash-Smith's father, Aubrey, also sat in the public gallery for part of the proceedings.

A memorial plaque to Claire Tiltman in London Road, Greenhithe
A memorial plaque to Claire Tiltman in London Road, Greenhithe

He was not there for the start of the prosecution case against his son.

Claire was the only child of Cliff and Lin Tiltman and they lived in Woodward Terrace, Horns Cross.

She was a pupil at Dartford Grammar School three miles away.

Sadly, both Cliff and Lin have died since their daughter's death.

Ash-Smith lived with his parents, Aubrey and Diane Ash-Smith, in Milton Street, Swanscombe.

The jury was shown a photograph of Ash-Smith taken at Claire's funeral.

Police search Myrtle Place in Dartford - the home of Colin Ash-Smith's parents
Police search Myrtle Place in Dartford - the home of Colin Ash-Smith's parents

Ash-Smith had a girlfriend, Stella Murrell, and although they lived together, first in Northfleet and then with his parents, they had separate bedrooms.

Mr Altman said Ms Murrell, who has since died, described her boyfriend as controlling.

"The defendant was, according to Stella, the golden boy in his mother's eyes who could do no wrong," he added.

The court heard that Ash-Smith worked for a rope-making business before becoming a milkman.

He also refereed for amateur football matches.

The prosecutor said: "He seemed to be a very quiet, shy individual, something of a loner.

"However, he owned and habitually carried a range of weapons, including knives, about which he had an obsessive interest.

Claire's parents Cliff and Linda lay flowers at the spot where she died
Claire's parents Cliff and Linda lay flowers at the spot where she died

"He kept combat or flick-type knives, and would often show them off."

Claire had been to school as usual on the day of her killing.

She planned to see a friend that evening to discuss whether to go to college after her GCSEs.

Later that afternoon Claire was offered a lift to her friend's house by the friend's mother.

However she said she had "things to do", one being buying cigarettes at a shop off Knockhall Chase.

"It was a decision that was to cost Claire her life," said the prosecutor.

Claire, who was just under 5ft 2in, left her home in the early evening to walk less than a mile to Victoria Swift's home in Riverview Road, Greenhithe.

But she never arrived, having been murdered in the alleyway off London Road.

The subsequent police investigation led to several people saying they had seen Claire as she headed towards her friend's home.

Linda and Cliff Tiltman at a police press conference in 1993
Linda and Cliff Tiltman at a police press conference in 1993

However, one possible sighting of her at about 6.20pm indicated that she had past the turning for Victoria's house, possibly to buy cigarettes.

A packet of 10 Silk Cut cigarettes containing nine was later found in the jacket she had been wearing.

The same witness also saw a man wearing a light-coloured jacket walking ahead of Claire.

The teenager tended to buy her cigarettes from a corner shop in Park Terrace, Greenhithe, and she and her friend, Lisa Younger, would often smoke together as they went to the nearby British Legion Club.

Another witness, Kathleen Still, was driving along London Road towards Gravesend when she saw a man emerge from the opposite side of the road "at its darkest point" and where there was no pavement, the court heard.

Having stopped in the road he let her pass and then cross.

Police investigating the murder search Colin Ash-Smith's parents' home in Dartford last year
Police investigating the murder search Colin Ash-Smith's parents' home in Dartford last year

The prosecutor said Mrs Still thought it "strange" as it would have been safer to use a traffic island further up the road.

But, more importantly, said Mr Altman, the man appeared to be crossing towards or talking to someone.

Mrs Still described the man as in his mid 20s, 5ft 9in to 5ft 10in, with light brown or fair hair and wearing a light-coloured bomber or blouson jacket.

He was also clean-shaven and had baby-type features.

Describing Ash-Smith as he looked in 1993 Mr Altman said: "He had fair hair, was around 6ft tall, and when a few days later he described what he had been wearing to the police, it included a beige zip jacket.

"In fact, a blouson waist-length jacket, the one we see him wearing four-plus weeks later at Claire's funeral."

Numerous witnesses saw Claire as she staggered from the alleyway and collapsed on the pavement.

Memorial walk to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of schoolgirl Claire Tiltman
Memorial walk to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of schoolgirl Claire Tiltman

Motorist Paul Harris saw her stop at the edge of the pavement, waving her arms about and looking backwards over her shoulders and into the alleyway.

"Understandably, Mr Harris misread what he was witnessing, thinking she was laughing, when looking back he realised she must have been screaming," said the prosecutor.

Mr Harris' girlfriend, Gitte Hansen, described Claire as "panicking" and behaving as if she was trying to get away from someone.

She then stopped and put her head forward and her arms across her stomach.

Claire was found collapsed on the pavement by motorist Michael Godfrey and his passenger Ronald Wilson.While in the Jaguar car, Mr Wilson mistook the "small, black-shaped bundle" as a bag of rubbish and then, once both men had reached the pavement, they thought Claire was a young male.She was on her knees facing the low wall with her left arm draped over it. Her jacket was rucked up at the back.The court was told they first thought she was the victim of a road accident.Paramedics arrived at 6.26pm, followed by police, but there was nothing that could be done to save Claire and she died at the scene.

"This was a killing for the sake of killing" - Brian Altman QC

Claire was stabbed nine times and sustained wounds to the back of her chest and stomach, the front of her right ear and right shoulder, the outer quadrant of her right breast and the right side of her ribs.

There were also stab wounds to her left breast, right armpit and right flank of chest.

Claire Tiltman's funeral
Claire Tiltman's funeral

One wound, to her ribs, was about 15cm deep, while another to her chest penetrated the right lung to a depth of about 14cm.

Other wounds had sliced her jaw and collarbone.

There was extensive blood-staining to her roll-neck top, suede jacket, bra, ski pants and her heavy, black-laced shoes.

The court heard there were also numerous cuts to her jacket, which was not believed to be fastened at the time of the attack.

The jury was told the cause of death was, "unsurprisingly", multiple stab wounds.

Mr Altman said a pathologist concluded that Claire had been attacked from behind as there was "little significant evidence" that she had put up any defence.

The trial continues tomorrow.


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