England

Claire Tiltman murderer Colin Ash-Smith sentenced to life

Colin Ash-Smith Image copyright MIKE GUNNILL
Image caption Colin Ash-Smith was jailed in 1996 for knife attacks on two women

Colin Ash-Smith has been jailed for life for murdering Kent schoolgirl Claire Tiltman in 1993.

Claire was stabbed repeatedly in an alleyway in Greenhithe while on the way to visit a friend.

Colin Ash-Smith, 46, was already serving three life sentences for previous attacks on two women.

Ash-Smith was told he would spend a minimum of 21 years behind bars by the judge at the Inner London Crown Court where he was found guilty on Thursday.

Judge Mr Justice Sweeney said: "I have no doubt that this was a premeditated murder that you carried out because of the feeling of power that it gave you.

"In so doing, you not only ended Claire's young life which was so full of promise, but you also caused unbearable grief and upset to her family and friends."

Ash-Smith was not in court for his sentencing.

About a dozen of Claire's school friends were in the gallery to hear the sentencing.

The judge praised Kent Police for bringing Claire's killer to trial.

"I would also like to commend the members of Claire's family and her friends who have attended this trial for the dignified way in which they have conducted themselves," the judge said.

"And I express my sorrow for the burden they have had to carry for many years at Claire's untimely loss."

Claire's parents, Linda and Cliff, died before her killer could be brought to justice, but they had been convinced Ash-Smith had murdered their daughter.

'Warped pleasure'

The Dartford Grammar School for Girls pupil was known as "Tilt" to her friends. She had just finished her mock GCSEs and wanted to go on to be a firefighter.

Ash-Smith was first questioned in 1995 as a suspect in Claire's murder but was only charged earlier this year, on the same day he was due to be considered for release by the parole board while serving his sentences for the two other attacks.

During the trial Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said the former milkman got a "warped pleasure" from the "savage" attack on Claire.

"This was a killing for the sake of killing, carried out by a ruthless and predatory armed killer, who attacked his chosen victim rapidly and stealthily, allowing her no time for defence or escape," he said.

Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Claire Tiltman was killed four days after her 16th birthday, in January 1993

Kent Police detectives found "assault plans" in which Ash-Smith wrote details of his plans to attack women. He also told of his "psycho state of mind".

'Control over someone'

He described himself as an "animal", plagued by a hatred of women whom he said "humiliated" him.

Asked why he attacked, he said: "I wanted to feel empowered, that I had control over someone, that I wasn't a doormat."

During his trial, Ash-Smith admitted going on midnight walks, armed with knives while on the hunt for victims.

In 1988, he attempted to rape and murder a young mother in a quarry and in 1995 he stabbed 22-year-old Charlotte Barnard 14 times, just yards from where he killed Claire.

However, he denied attacking Claire, and even attended her funeral wearing the same beige jacket he wore the night of the murder.

Ash-Smith's mother, Diane, could face criminal charges for providing her son with a false alibi for the night Claire was killed.

Det Supt Rob Vinson from Kent Police said: "We haven't considered that yet. It will need to be looked at."

Father destroyed knife

In 1997, Ash-Smith's father Aubrey was jailed for 12 months for perverting the course of justice after he destroyed a knife, owned by his son, shortly before the family home was due to be searched by police investigating Claire's murder.

At Maidstone Crown Court he had admitted he boiled, dismantled and threw away a knife to destroy evidence.

The judge in the case said the former councillor had raised questions about his son's involvement in Claire's murder.

"Those questions might have been answered if the knife had not been destroyed," he said.

Speaking outside the court in 1997, Diane Ash-Smith, a former mayor, said neither she, her husband, or son had had anything to do with Claire's killing.

Image copyright Kent Police
Image caption Colin Ash-Smith knew Claire Tiltman and attended her funeral in 1993

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