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'Predator' gets life for murder of schoolgirl

A "predatory armed killer" has been jailed for life for murdering schoolgirl Claire Tiltman in a "frenzied and remorseless" attack in 1993.

Knife-obsessed loner Colin Ash-Smith (46) must serve a minimum of 21 years in prison for the "barbaric" attack.

Ash-Smith, who is already serving life for attacks on two other women, stabbed Claire to death in an alleyway near her home in Greenhithe, Kent, four days after she turned 16.

The former milkman was first questioned as a suspect in 1995 and Claire's parents, Linda and Cliff, were convinced he was the killer.

But they died before he was charged with her murder.

Judge Mr Justice Sweeney said Claire had an "engaging and lively personality" and was "extremely popular, with a wide circle of friends".

He told Ash-Smith: "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.

He added: "This was a premeditated murder. Your intention was to kill. You took a knife to the scene for the purpose, and Claire was vulnerable by reason of her circumstances."

Ash-Smith chose not to attend Inner London Crown Court yesterday to hear his fate.

Mr Justice Sweeney said he had to sentence Ash-Smith on the basis of the law as it stood at the time of his murder, even though there were no mitigating factors, so he escaped being handed a "life means life" sentence.

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