THE trial of a man charged with murder and kidnap is the latest to fall foul of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Andrew Lee Pearson is alleged to have killed and imprisoned Natalie Harker, of Colburn, near Richmond, on October 9 last year.

The 30-year-old was found dead in Brough with St Giles, near Catterick. She had previously been reported missing.

Pearson was due to stand trial today at Teesside Crown Court charged with murder and kidnap.

The 44-year-old will now stand trial later in the year when a new suitable date can be found once the court system is back up and running following the outbreak of the infectious illness.

The Northern Echo:

Police at the scene where a woman's body was found at Colburn

In November, he appeared at the same court via videolink when he pleaded not guilty to both charges against him.

The accused, of Chestnut Court, Catterick Garrison, was remanded in custody.

Last week, Crown court trials across England and Wales were suspended as judges attempted to find safer ways for juries and lawyers to conduct hearings.

A statement issued by the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, said hearings were being paused while measures that respected the need for physical distancing were considered to prevent infection spreading.

Burnett’s decision followed complaints about the safety of continuing with physical court hearings while much of the rest of the the country shuts down.

The head of the judiciary said: “A review of the arrangements in our courts is called for. I have decided that we need to pause jury trials for a short time to enable appropriate precautions to be put in place.

“My unequivocal position is that no jury trials or other physical hearings can take place unless it is safe for them to do so.”

Since then some hearings have taken place at Teesside Crown Court with defendants appearing via video-links from prison while barristers have been using remote technology to conduct cases.

Judge Paul Watson QC has been residing over proceedings to deal with any case that needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency to carry out sentencing exercises where a minimal number of court staff and legal representatives are required.

On Friday, he was forced to vacate another trial due to start next week, with the earliest hearing available to try and set a new date was July 13.

He said: "I'm going to have to vacate that and the trial will have to be relisted. Due to the custody time limit the trial can't be rescheduled within that time limit, so we will have to adjourn this case until July 13 and the custody time limit can be extended until July 17.

"I don't think there is any doubt that these unprecedented times mean that the court is justified in extending the custody time limit where necessary."