FOUR people have appeared in court charged with the murder of John Littlewood.

James Riley, 30, and Donna Balfour, 35, both of Ninth Street, Blackhall Colliery, and Marty Bates, 29, and Tracey Bunney, 44, both of Tenth Street, Blackhall Colliery, have been jointly charged with murder.

Mr Riley and Miss Balfour also face a joint charge of intimidation of a witness.

Teesside Crown Court heard that a provisional trial date had been set for April next year.

Judge Stephen Ashurst remanded all four in custody ahead of their next hearing on December 20 when they will be asked to indicate a plea to the charges.

Mr Littlewood – known as John D – was found dead in a house in the village on Tuesday, July 30.

The 36-year-old died as a result of head injuries.