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Dad's death not end of hunt for Claire Tiltman's killer

PUBLISHED: 11:59 11 October 2012

The alleyway where Claire Tiltman was killed

The alleyway where Claire Tiltman was killed

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Teenager Claire Tiltman was found murdered in a Dartford alleyway - 19 years on police tell Anna Dubuis that someone holds the key to who did it.

For 19 years Cliff Tiltman never gave up hope that his daughter’s killer would be found.

But last month he died never knowing who had savagely murdered his only child.

Claire Tiltman was just 16 when she was stabbed more than 40 times less than a mile from her home in Greenhithe.

It was January 18, 1993 and the Dartford Grammar School pupil was on her way to visit a friend.

She had left her house in Woodward Terrace at around 6pm on the dark, winter evening four days after her birthday.

Twenty minutes later, her body was found in an alleyway just off the busy London Road.

Since that day, more than 12,000 people have supplied information to officers and more than 1,685 statements have been collected, but her killer has never been caught.

Cliff and his wife Lin worked tirelessly to keep Claire’s memory alive, saving every article written about the case and appealing every year for information.

When Lin died from cancer aged 56 four years ago, Cliff said he believed that Claire and his wife were finally reunited.

“It might seem bizarre but the way I look at it, she’s with Claire now,” he said at the time.

He blamed her illness on the stress they had been through, having never been able to rest properly.

Cliff was also later diagnosed with cancer.

He made his final appeal in January this year from his nursing home bed on the 19th anniversary of her death.

He said: “It would mean everything to me to find out, after all these years, who did this to Claire. It has been a long time, but I’ve never given up hope and never will.

“I can’t begin to put into words how this has affected our family. Claire has gone. Her mum has gone. There is now only me. I try to stay strong but will still hide and cry my eyes out for an hour. She would have been 35 now. She was a good kid. I miss her to bits.”

Friends and distant relatives gathered at Cliff’s funeral last week to pay their respects to the 62-year-old. In attendance was Det Insp Rob Vinson who has worked on the case for several years.

He said: “Cliff’s last hope was to be able to get that little bit of information. That is the real sad thing about it.

“There was not one victim. It was Cliff and Lin’s only daughter. On that date 19 years ago their lives completely changed and they never recovered.”

He believes the killer was an “opportunist” who was local to the area although not known to Claire.

“She was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

Over the years the police have made numerous appeals for information and advances in technology around DNA have meant they could review evidence.

The case remains open and has been subject to a number of reviews by cold case detectives, with new leads uncovered on several occasions.

In 2010 a handwritten cardboard sign mysteriously appeared alongside flowers at her memorial site plaque claiming to name the alleged killer, also giving the type of car he drove and the company he worked for. It was reported to Kent Police’s cold case team. A man was traced but ruled out.

Det Insp Vinson has sworn this won’t be the end of the investigation. “With Cliff’s passing it may prompt somebody to come forward. I hope people will realise the horror and devastation that this family went through.

“The answers may well lie locally and someone out there will have information. We are waiting for that one call to come in. Somebody will hold the key.”

Almost two decades since Claire died, messages are still left to her on an online tribute site.

In the wake of Cliff’s death, one message reads: “We will all carry on praying for justice and will never let up. Hope you gave your dad a huge hug when he came to you.”

If you have information which may help with the investigation, contact the incident room on 01634 884010. Alternatively, telephone Kent Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

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