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Colin Ash-Smith accused of fatally stabbing Dartford schoolgirl Claire Tiltman in Greenhithe in 1993

Murder suspect Colin Ash-Smith attended the funeral of Dartford schoolgirl Claire Tiltman, a court has heard.

Several witnesses on the night of her murder reported seeing a man with fair, scruffy hair wearing a light-coloured coat.

The jury heard Ash-Smith owned a light-coloured, waist-length jacket and it was one - according to his then girlfriend - that he wore all the time, and later wore to Claire’s funeral.

Ash-Smith, pictured at Claire Tiltman's funeral. Picture courtesy of ITV Meridian
Ash-Smith, pictured at Claire Tiltman's funeral. Picture courtesy of ITV Meridian

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC told the jury that despite a massive police investigation over two decades, officers had not identified any man other than the defendant who fitted the description, and no one had ever come forward to say they were that person.

Ash-Smith’s beige-coloured jacket was examined by police after his arrest in 1995.

Traces of blood were found but were insufficient for blood grouping analysis.

The jury was told that DNA testing did not exist at the time.

Claire Tiltman was murdered in 1993
Claire Tiltman was murdered in 1993

Mr Altman told the court the jacket was, “alas”, returned to Ash-Smith’s father in 1998 and that when police searched all the known addresses for the Ash-Smiths in September last year, the jacket could not be found.

It is alleged Ash-Smith, 45, fatally stabbed the teenager in an alleyway off London Road, Greenhithe, in January 1993.

Claire, who went to Dartford Grammar School for Girls, was killed just four days after her 16th birthday not far from her home in Woodward Terrace.

“He was nicknamed The Phantom because he used to creep around. You could be doing something and then he would suddenly be there” - Ash-Smith's ex-colleague Peter Shelton

Her parents, Lin and Cliff Tiltman, have since died.

Ash-Smith was charged with Claire’s murder after lawyers were presented with a file by Kent Police following a cold case review.

The court heard Ash-Smith was nicknamed The Phantom by work colleagues as he had a habit of “creeping around”.

He also showed off several types of knives with blades ranging in length from 4in to 10in and were described as commando, survival, combat and even Crocodile Dundee-style by his workmates.

Many described him as shy and introverted.

In a statement read to the court Peter Shelton, who worked with the defendant at a rope manufacturing company in Swanley, said: “He was nicknamed The Phantom because he used to creep around.

“You could be doing something and then he would suddenly be there.”

Mr Shelton also recalled finding a commando-type knife in Ash-Smith’s work drawer at the time of the 1988 attack. The court heard it was not a work tool supplied by the company.

Another colleague told police Ash-Smith would produce a knife on various occasions, flick it open and “joke about”.

One time he cut a workmate’s arm but was said to be apologetic.

The alleyway where Claire Tiltman was stabbed
The alleyway where Claire Tiltman was stabbed

Jason Crittenden was a young boy living next to the Ash-Smith family home in Milton Street, Swanscombe.

In his statement he also spoke of Ash-Smith, then in his early 20s, showing him knives and selling him an air gun.

By January 1995 Ash-Smith was working for Express Dairies based in Swanley.

He had rounds in Joydens Wood, Hextable and New Ash Green before being given his own franchise round in Farningham.

The court heard he again showed off knives and would tell colleagues he would use them if necessary when remarks were made about certain rounds being “quiet and lonely”.

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

On one occasion while on his round in Farningham he and a colleague were said to have spotted an attractive woman in her mid 20s, at which Ash-Smith was alleged to have remarked: “I’d love to split her legs wide open.”

Howard Shipman also worked with Ash-Smith at an Erith-based rope firm.

He told police Ash-Smith had shown him a Crocodile Dundee-type knife with a 10in blade, as well as a loaded handgun.

Mr Shipman said he could not tell whether it was real or imitation.

“I said ‘This could kill you’ and Colin said words to the effect of ‘Let’s put it this way. It would make a hole in you’, or something similar.”

The trial continues.

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