The man accused of stabbing Claire Tiltman to death in Greenhithe previously committed brutal attacks on two other women - one just yards from where the 16-year-old died, a court heard.

Colin Ash-Smith, 46, appeared at Inner London Crown Court this morning on the first day of his trial charged with stabbing the Dartford Grammar School pupil to death on the evening of January 18, 1993.

A jury of seven men and five women was told Ash-Smith, formerly of Swanscombe, confessed in 1996 to stabbing two women, one in December 1988 when he was 20, and another in October 1995.

In the first attack he attempted to murder his victim, who was local, by strangling her and stabbing her in the back, while he also attempted to rape her.

In the second, when he was 27, Ash-Smith stabbed another local woman 360 metres from where Claire was attacked, just inside an unlit alleyway connecting London Road with Riverview Road.

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC told the court: "The prosecution does not seek a guilty verdict on the murder of Claire Tiltman by saying that because the defendant was guilty of the other two attacks he must necessarily be guilty of the Tiltman attack.

"The prosecution says that there is other compelling evidence that he was the offender, the killer of Claire Tiltman, and the evidence of his guilt of the other two attacks and the facts underlying those attacks, as well as other information about his character, helps identify him as the killer and reveal his disposition to behave in a certain way, which is happily both rare and exceptional."

Claire had enjoyed her 16th birthday just four days before she set out at around 6.10pm on the night of her death to walk less than a mile from her home in Woodward Terrace, Stone, to her friend Victoria Swift's in Riverview Road.

The pair had planned to discuss Claire's college choices but she never made it there.

Instead, the prosecution alleges Ash-Smith subjected her to a "frenzied and remorseless" attack, in which she was stabbed nine times before staggering to the foot of the alleyway by London Road, collapsing, and dying on her back on the pavement before horrified onlookers.

Mr Altman said: "Make no mistake - this was 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.

"To all intents and purposes Claire's killing was an entirely motiveless attack. There was no sexual interference and nothing was stolen from her.

"But to her killer Claire was a target for a completely senseless slaughter of an innocent young teenage girl for no better reason than the warped pleasure derived from attacking a lone woman and the ultimate power and control it gave him."

Ash-Smith denies murder.

The trial continues.