A man has appeared in court charged with the murder of a much-loved grandfather.

Cleveland Police launched a murder investigation after they were called to Kennedy Gardens in Billingham early on Thursday, May 25 after a man’s body was found.

He was later identified as Ashley Crooks who had recently become a grandfather.

The Northern Echo: Ashley CrooksAshley Crooks (Image: CLEVELAND POLICE)

Initially, two men, 44 and 56, were arrested on suspicion of Mr Crooks’ murder and were released on bail while enquiries continue.

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Clint Shaun Atkins did not enter a plea during the short hearing at Teesside Crown Court.

The Northern Echo: Police investigators at the scene of the alleged murder in BillinghamPolice investigators at the scene of the alleged murder in Billingham (Image: STUART BOULTON)

The defendant, of Rochester Road in Billingham,  spoke only to confirm his name and address.

Judge Howard Crowson remanded the 44-year-old in custody until his next hearing on Novemebr 10.

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The judge set a provisional trail date of March 4 next year.

A second man, aged 56, was also re-arrested by Cleveland Police on suspicion of murder and he has been released on bail pending further enquiries.

Paying tribute to him at the time, Mr Crooks’ family said: “We are devastated that Ashley has been taken from us so suddenly and cruelly. He is a much-loved member of our family and a very proud dad and - recently - grandad to two gorgeous baby girls.

“We are struggling to come to terms with the shocking circumstances of his death and please ask for privacy at this time.”