Nineteen-year-old Craig Smith’s parents were startled when he told them it was rumoured that he’d killed a young girl. But the “rumour” was his own invention…until he made it come true five days later, on JUNE 18th, 1998.

His victim was 13-year-old Claire Hart, waylaid as she crossed a field on her way to her school in Congleton, Cheshire. She failed to arrive, and her body was found six days later in a river bordering the field. She had been beaten, shot and strangled.

Craig Smith was already the prime suspect, having been arrested and charged with Claire’s abduction.

At his trial he was said to be “an obvious loner with few friends of his own age. He spent a great deal of time with children who were years younger than


Shortly before Claire disappeared he was seen talking to her in the field that was part of her route to school. On being questioned he had at first claimed he didn’t know her, but had then admitted being with her in the field, saying she had left him to continue on her way to school.

Referring to the rumour Smith invented, the prosecutor said: “There was no such rumour. It was the awakening in his mind of the awful thing he was going to do.”

After the jury convicted him of Claire’s murder, it was revealed that at the time of her death Smith was on bail, accused of two arson attacks on her school. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he was described by a detective as “a ticking time-bomb waiting to go off.”