TWO men including a company director charged with murder have denied killing a man in a house just minutes away from a primary school.

Neil Elliott, 44, and Lee Darby, 31, are accused of murdering 39-year-old Michael Phillips in a residential street in Hartlepool last month.

Wearing a dark blue T-shirt, Elliott, director of Niramax Total Waste Solutions, appeared at Teesside Crown Court where he was handcuffed in the dock to a prison officer.

Meanwhile Darby, wearing a white jumper, appeared via video link from Durham Prison.

The pair both denied murdering Mr Phillips who died from multiple injuries at a home in Rydal Street on June 10.

Cleveland Police confirmed nine suspects were initially arrested in connection to the incident which happened in a property close to a busy main road, primary school and high school.

The court heard the upcoming trial could take up to five weeks and include up to six more defendants.

The pair will next appear in court on September 27 and the trial is expected to begin in January.

Elliott, of Briarfield Close, Hartlepool, also pleaded not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Darby, of Ridley Court, Hartlepool, was additionally charged with possessing a stun gun disguised as a torch, which he denied.