Greenhithe: Man Guilty Of Claire Tiltman Murder

A former milkman branded "pure evil'' by police has been found guilty of killing a schoolgirl in a "frenzied and remorseless'' murder in Kent more than 20 years ago.

Colin Ash-Smith, 46, stabbed Claire Tiltman from behind as she took a short cut through a dark alleyway to a friend's house in Greenhithe in 1993, just four days after her 16th birthday.

Friends of Claire who have attended court every day of the trial broke down in tears as the verdict was read out at Inner London Crown Court.

Claire's mother and father, Linda and Cliff, died never having seen her killer convicted. But her friends made sure her parents were not forgotten, propping a photo of the couple on the wooden bench where they sat at Inner London Crown Court.

Officers warned the former milkman was "always looking, stalking - always looking to attack women'' and would have pounced on hundreds more if he had the chance.

After killing Claire, Ash-Smith went on to launch a second ferocious attack on another young woman, Charlotte Barnard, in the same town, in 1995, leaving her for dead. She was knifed 14 times but survived and Ash-Smith was later jailed for that attack.

Detective Superintendent Rob Vinson, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate Cold Case Team, said the murder was one of the most "horrific'' and "emotive'' cases he had worked on.

He said: "Ash-Smith is a very dangerous individual. He is a predator. He would be stalking women with evil intent (to carry out attacks) - some of which he carried out and some of which he didn't.

"On the night in question Claire was in the wrong place at the wrong time. When you look at the writings and some of the things he has done, this is a very, very dangerous individual, and justice has been served at last for the brutal murder of Claire.''

He revealed that Ash-Smith had long been one of the prime suspects in Claire's murder which took place in an alleyway near her home.

But it was not until changes in the law were made allowing a defendant's past convictions to be put before a jury that prosecutors had enough evidence to bring him to trial.

Nigel Pilkington, head of the Complex Casework Unit for the Crown Prosecution Service South East, said Ash-Smith would have attacked many more women if he had the chance.

He said: "He is a man who is always looking, stalking - always looking to attack women. The fact he only attacks some of the time is because he is not going to attack if he is going to be seen.

"He is thinking about it (attacking) all the time. How many times has he thought about doing it and then abandoned it? Probably hundreds of times.

"I don't think he can help himself because he is in a 'psycho state of mind'. If you ask him if he wanted to kill Claire Tiltman, I think he couldn't stop himself.''