Two deny murdering Hartlepool boxer Mark Denton

DEAD: Mark Denton
DEAD: Mark Denton

TWO men accused of the brutal killing of former boxer Mark Denton will face a jury trial in less than eight weeks.

Anthony Middleton, 21, and David Sowerby, 23, pleaded not guilty at Teesside Crown Court yesterday to Mark’s murder.

Mark Denton

Mark Denton

He died after being attacked with an ice axe at a house party in Hutton Avenue, Hartlepool, on New Year’s Eve.

The trial, expected to last at least two weeks, will be conducted by the area’s most senior judge, the Recorder of Middlesbrough.

It is due to start on Monday, June 2.

Appearing in court over a videolink from Leeds prison, Middleton and Sowerby spoke only to confirm their names and say “not guilty” when the charge was put to them.

The court’s public gallery was packed with family and friends of Mark, 31, including his older brother Craig.

Jamie Hill QC, prosecuting, said numerous witnesses for both the prosecution and defendants are expected to give evidence during the trial.

Some could give their testimony from the witness box behind screens.

There is no indication yet what Middleton and Sowerby’s defence to the allegation will be.

The judge ordered the prosecution and defence barristers to provide each other with copies of evidence they plan to use and a copy of the accused’s defence within the next month.

Middleton, of Bruntoft Avenue, and Sowerby, of Allerton Close, both Hartlepool, were remanded in prison.

Judge Peter Benson said: “David Sowerby and Anthony Middleton, you have both pleaded not guilty to this offence of murder.

“The trial is fixed for June 2 and you will be produced from custody on that date.

“In the meantime, you must both remain in custody.”

Mark’s death sent shockwaves through the town and almost 1,000 mourners went to his funeral at the Borough Hall on the Headland.

Tributes were led by Mark’s parents Ann and Brian Denton described him as a “lovable son and brother” who enjoyed a good laugh with his family and many friends.

They received a text message from Mark late on New Year’s Eve.

But shortly afterwards they were told Mark had been badly hurt at a party and rushed to hospital where he tragically lost his fight for life.

Middleweight Mark won 31 of his 48 fights as an amateur before briefly turning professional, winning his one and only bout.

An inquest into his death has been opened and adjourned by the Teesside coroner.