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Jury in Colin Ash-Smith murder trial hears defence after Claire Tiltman was stabbed in Greenhithe alley

The man accused of murdering teenager Claire Tiltman in Greenhithe described himself as "an animal" when he gave evidence in his trial.

Ash-Smith, 46, and formerly from Swanscombe, denies murdering 16-year-old Claire in January 1993.

She was stabbed in a "frenzied" attack in an alleyway off London Road on the way to see a friend.

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

Often struggling for words before he answered questions from his defence team, former milkman Colin Ash-Smith admitted that he:

- had owned a collection of 20 to 30 knives as well as an air gun, pistol crossbow and imitation Magnum;

- was "obsessed" with a work colleague's wife and broke into her home to sexually assault her at knifepoint;

- that the attempted murder of a woman in Swanscombe he carried out in 1988 was "the best one he had done";

- would often go on "night walks" armed with weapons in the hope, he claimed, of provoking people into attacking him;

- and had a "very limited moral compass" at the time of the 1988 attack.

Ash-Smith was first questioned as a suspect in her murder in 1995 after another woman was knifed 14 times just yards from where Claire died.

He is alleged to have stabbed the 16-year-old in a "frenzied and remorseless" attack in an alleyway off London Road on the evening of January 18, 1993.

At the start of giving evidence today Ash-Smith was asked about his relationships with women, his weapons collection and his hand-written notes in which he detailed "assault plans", including the attempted murder, attempted rape and kidnap of his victim in 1988.

The case was heard at Inner London Crown Court in Southwark
The case was heard at Inner London Crown Court in Southwark

He wrote that this attack was his "masterpiece" and "95% successful" but told the jury he now felt "ashamed and disgusted" by what he did.

Asked by his barrister David Nathan QC how the attack made him feel, Ash-Smith replied: "I wanted to feel empowered. I had control over someone, I wasn't a doormat."

He was then asked what he thought of it now. Ash-Smith told the jury: "I always thought I would protect women, would protect people, wouldn't harm people and I failed miserably to be honest.

"The one chance I got to show restraint and wouldn't do anything and walk away and I failed miserably.

"Before that I thought I was a reasonably good person but to be honest I was an animal."

The could heard that Ash-Smith habitually carried knives, including sheath, flick, pen and commando-style knives.

He said he did so because he was attacked in Dartford town centre when he was about 16 or 17.

He also admitted being "fascinated" by them.

"I felt safe, comfortable and powerful with them," he added.

The court heard that although he was a virgin until he met his first and only girlfriend in 1991, he was "obsessed" with a work colleague's wife and once broke into her home armed with a knife shortly before the 1988 attack.

He told the court he "wanted her sexually" and when asked whether he was going to use the knife to injure or kill her he added: "No, just to threaten her... to probably sexually assault her."

Claire Tiltman was stabbed to death in 1993
Claire Tiltman was stabbed to death in 1993

He fled the house in Swanscombe before his intended victim knew he was even there when he realised she was not home alone.

However, Ash-Smith admitted he slashed her nightdress in the bathroom in "frustration and anger".

When asked if he liked women, Ash-Smith told the jury he could not trust them because "they had power over me and they used me".

His "assault plans" were found by police following his arrest in 1995. There were four listed, each one rated in percentage terms how successful they were.

As well as including the 1988 attack and the break-in at his colleague's home, Ash-Smith wrote about the stalking of a woman at Swanscombe train station. This one he rated as "50% successful".

The alley where Claire Tiltman was killed
The alley where Claire Tiltman was killed

Although he told the court he "exaggerated and embellished" the details, he admitted he contemplated attacking her because of "how easy it would be".

Asked by Mr Nathan what stopped him, Ash-Smith replied: "She approached me and asked me the time. That just took me off guard."

Another plan to break-in at an old people's home in Swanscombe also failed and Ash-Smith wrote it was "an abysmal failure".

He told the court when he wrote the plans he wanted people to "take him seriously".

Asked how he felt now about what he wrote he said: "I don't know what I was thinking. I can't give a reasonable explanation for it. I can't justify it."

Ash-Smith will continue to give evidence tomorrow and is expected to be questioned about Claire's murder in 1993 and the subsequent knife attack in 1995.

The trial continues.

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