FAMILY and friends of former Hartlepool boxer Mark Denton saw his alleged killers in court for the first time in an emotionally-charged hearing.
They watched from the packed public gallery as David Sowerby and Anthony Middleton appeared at Teesside Crown Court yesterday.
A provisional trial date was set, with the trial expected to last a fortnight. Mark, 31, was pronounced dead at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, after he was attacked at a party in Hutton Avenue, Hartlepool, on New Year’s Eve.
At one stage a policeman warned Mark’s group over swearing, and the two families were brought into court separately.
A member of the court’s security staff remained in court throughout the hearing.
Also watching proceedings was Mark’s girlfriend, and a number of young men.
Three women supporting the defendants, including Middleton’s grandmother, attended the preliminary hearing.
Sowerby, 23, and Middleton, 21, appeared in court via videolink from Holme House Prison, in Stockton, for the 10-minute hearing.
They spoke only to confirm their names, and that they could hear clearly what was being said in the courtroom.
Sowerby and Middleton did not enter any pleas to the charge of murder yesterday.
They are expected to do that when they return to the crown court in the week commencing April 7.
A potential trial date has been earmarked to start on June 2, and is expected to last for two weeks.
The barrister for Middleton, of Bruntoft Avenue, Hartlepool, indicated he would be claiming self defence.
Sowerby, of Allerton Close, Hartlepool, wore a grey sweatshirt. Sitting next to him Middleton wore a blue and white tracksuit top.
Sue Jacobs, prosecuting, asked for eight weeks to prepare their case against the defendants, saying there was a number of outstanding forensic issues.
The Recorder of Middlesbrough, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, said the police had to provide all forensic evidence by March 4.
Sowerby and Middleton were remanded in custody and there was no application for bail.
Judge Bourne-Arton said: “You will next be before this court in the week beginning April 7 when you will attend a plea and case management hearing.
“That means you will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to this charge of murder.
“In the meantime you will both be remanded in custody.”
An internet fundraising page set up on Saturday by friends of Mark who have pledged to try and raise £10,000 to help Mark’s family had topped £6,500 by today.
To make a donation visit the gofundme site by clicking here