A Good Heart Feargal Sharkey
19 November 2014, 14:10
The mother of alleged murderer Colin Ash-Smith used her position on a council to doggedly question investigating police about a car they were trying to track down, a court has heard.
The 46-year-old is accused of stabbing schoolgirl Claire Tiltman in a frenzied attack as she walked to a friend's house in January 1993, just four days after her 16th birthday.
Ash-Smith - who has since been jailed for stabbing attacks on two other women - was suspected in the years after Claire's death, his Inner London Crown Court trial has heard.
But he was only charged with her murder this year, after cold-case detectives reopened the investigation. Ash-Smith denies murdering the teenager.
Prosecutors say he fed detectives a "false alibi'' covering the time of Claire's killing, claiming to have been out leafleting with his mother Diane, a local Labour councillor.
Ash-Smith - who sports a mop of fair hair - is also said to have phoned police to say he'd seen someone with curly dark hair at the scene of the crime.
Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said Ash-Smith had lied to divert detectives because he feared he or his distinctive souped-up white Ford Capri had been spotted.
Today the jury heard how the alleged killer's mother questioned police about their leads, peppering them with questions about a white car they were trying to trace.
Former Swanscombe and Greenhithe mayor Philip Crow said he and two other councillors - including Mrs Ash-Smith - were invited in for a briefing about the ongoing investigation.
The killing had made locals uneasy, he said. "It caused a lot of anxiety. It was the first time I'd known in many years that the area had had that kind of atrocity,'' Mr Crow said.
He said he was so uncomfortable about Mrs Ash-Smith's intense focus on the car police were hunting that he commented to his wife about it when he got home. "The only thing I recollect, and I still recollect today, was that I was very uncomfortable about the questions that were asked about a particular car, what make, colour - and that came from Mrs Ash-Smith,'' he said.
"She kept coming back to the vehicle ... (There was a) reluctance to let the questioning go to other areas.''
The Crown says Ash-Smith effectively confessed to the killing during a conversation with a fellow inmate at Wakefield Prison, convicted sex offender Stefan Dubois.
It's alleged Ash-Smith "let slip'' a crucial detail about a pedestrian crossing that tied him to Claire's murder. In a prison telephone conversation played to the court, Ash-Smith tells his friend how "desperate'' police have become to link him to the crime.
In the conversation, recorded in August when Ash-Smith's trial was looming, Dubois can be heard warning his friend: "Don't say too much over the phone, you know what the screws are like, they'll jump on anything.''
Ash-Smith also complains that police have confiscated belongings from his cell. "Me mum and dad are a bit upset about this,'' he tells his friend. "It seems they're going out of their way to try and stiff me ... I'd like to know what they think they've got, because I know there's nothing out there.''
The trial continues.