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Evil killer pictured at Claire Tiltman's funeral faces rest of life in jail

By Staff Reporter

A former milkman branded "pure evil" by police could spend the rest of his life in jail after being convicted of killing a schoolgirl in a "frenzied and remorseless" murder 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 1993, just four days after her 16th birthday.

He attended her funeral a month later with his Labour councillor parents wearing the same beige jacket he wore the night of the murder.

Yesterday friends of the murdered schoolgirl wept as her killer was finally convicted at Inner London Crown Court.

Blond-haired Ash-Smith stared ahead stony-faced as the jury of seven men and five women gave their verdict after just three hours of deliberation.

Outside court Claire's friends hugged each other and detectives who had worked on the case as they finally saw her killer brought to justice.

A knife-obsessed loner, Ash-Smith has been in jail since 1996 for stabbing two other young women in brutal attacks that bore the same hallmarks as Claire's murder.

Mr Justice Sweeney will hand Ash-Smith a life sentence today.

Ash-Smith was first questioned as a suspect by detectives in connection with the schoolgirl's murder in 1995. But he was only charged earlier this year, the day he was due to be considered for release by the parole board.

Claire's parents Cliff and Linda have died in the years since her murder in Greenhithe, Kent, on January 18, 1993, and questions will be asked about why her killer evaded justice for so long.

Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said Ash-Smith got a "warped pleasure" out of killing Claire in a "savage'' and motiveless attack.

"Make no mistake, 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, and who fled the scene just as efficiently as he had arrived.''

When officers searched his family home last year they found an edition of a newspaper marking the first anniversary of Claire's death, which he had kept as a trophy. The five-week trial heard details of how Ash-Smith killed Claire as part of a "spree" of attacks on females across Kent.

A self-confessed "animal", he was plagued by a hatred of women who he felt "humiliated" him. He singled out, stalked and attacked females, and then bragged about them in diaries - giving himself a percentage rating for how "successful" he was.

Speaking in an eerily calm voice in the witness box, Ash-Smith said he went on midnight walks armed with knives hunting for victims.

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