REVELLERS are being warned not to get caught up in alcohol-fuelled violence following a spate of killings.

The warning comes from Durham Constabulary's chief homicide detectives after seven people died and several more were attacked in incidents during the past year.

Detective Superintendents Tom Ryan and Harry Stephenson fear that, with more opportunities for drinking over Christmas and New Year, there could be further killings.

Det Sup Ryan said: "We have had seven assaults leading to someone's death throughout County Durham and Darlington this year.

"Any weekend night is prime time for people to be involved in violence.

"At the end of the day, the effect for everyone involved is that there are no winners - on one hand someone loses their life and a family loses a loved one, and on the other, someone pays the price in court."

Det Supt Ryan said getting caught up in trouble was often easier than people thought.

"People use alcohol and drugs, and they affect their behaviour," he said.

"It's usually young men who get involved in inexplicable violence. They are not the criminal fraternity as such. They start fights over trivial issues and the price someone pays is death."

Det Supt Ryan said it is often innocent bystanders who end up getting hurt, and urged people to steer clear of signs of trouble.

He encouraged those inclined towards violence to treat alcohol sensibly over the festive period.

"We are not for one minute suggesting people should not go out and have a good time," he said. "We simply want people to think about the consequences of actions which too many times this year, have turned to tragedy."