A man appeared in court today (Wednesday, August 9) and denied a charge of murder following the death of his alleged victim days after an altercation in a town centre bar.

Richard Smith-Slater was originally facing a charge of wounding arising from the incident in Blake’s Bar, on Beveridge Way, in Newton Aycliffe, at about 7pm on Saturday, July 8.

But, after the injured man, Craig Gill, was taken to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, in critical condition, the death of the 61-year-old was confirmed there five days later.

The 33-year-old defendant, of Bury Road, Newton Aycliffe, was remanded in custody after appearing before magistrates on the initial wounding charge, two days after the incident.

Read more: Newton Aycliffe Blakes incident: Arrest as man remains seriously ill

Appearing at Durham Crown Court today for a plea hearing in the case, via video link from the city’s nearby prison, the charge of murder was put to him.

Following his not-guilty plea, arrangements were made to find a suitable trial date.

Judge James Adkin said as Durham Crown Court is not these days deemed a suitable centre for murder cases, the trial would have to be transferred, probably to Teesside Crown Court.

As there is a custody time limit of January 8 to detain the defendant, a suitable provisional trial date was agreed, starting on Tuesday, January 2, the first day back after the Christmas/New Year break, with a time estimate of “five days-plus”.

Nick Dry, for the prosecution, and Robert Mochrie, representing the defendant, said that was a suitable date for both parties.

Confirmation of the suggested trial date will be subject to listing availability at the Teesside court centre.

Read more: Newton Aycliffe Blakes: Richard Slater charged with wounding

Today's hearing was told that it was hoped that a neuro-pathologist’s report could be drawn up prior to the trial taking place.

Judge Adkin adjourned the hearing and remanded the defendant to remain in custody until the trial.

Read next:

Newton Aycliffe incident LIVE: Man seriously ill in hospital

Newton Aycliffe Blakes: Richie Slater in court charged with GBH

Newton Aycliffe man dies after Blakes bar incident last week

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Following the hearing, Durham Police issued an image of the deceased and an accompanying comment from his family.

It read: “The whole family is devastated at the loss of our wonderful son and brother.

“Craig was a quiet, gentle man who was much loved by his family.

“He was extremely popular in the local community and his death has left an enormous hole in our lives.”