EIGHT men have been sentenced to death in Somaliland for the murder of three foreign aid workers - including two teachers from the North-East.

Seven others were given life sentences for their part in the attacks. Police said they were all Islamic radicals.

Richard and Enid Eyeington were killed in 2003 at the school they helped to build. Kenyan Flora Cheruiyot was killed early last year.

The Somaliland court found the attackers guilty of terrorism and banditry.

The men shouted "Allah Akbar" (God is Great) after Judge Abdurahman Jama Hayan finished reading his sentences in a packed courthouse in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa.

Some of the men shouted: "We should not be killed for assassinating infidels."

But the judge dismissed their protests. He said: "The religion is very clear. It does not encourage the assassination of innocent Muslims or non-Muslims."

Mr Eyeington, who hailed from near Chester-le-Street, County Durham, and his wife, who was originally from Fence Houses, Wearside, were shot as they sat watching television at their flat inside a school compound in Sheikh, 87 miles north-east of Hargeisa.

Mr Eyeington was a close friend of Oscar-winning director Lord Attenborough, who described the headteacher as an inspirational figure.

The 62-year-old grew up in Pelton Fell before going to grammar school and teacher training college.

The family first moved to Africa in 1962, where Mr Eyeington worked as a teacher in Kenya. They later moved to Swaziland, where he was headmaster of a school attended by the children of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

They joined SOS Children's Villages in June 1995, working in Swaziland, before moving to Somaliland in September 2002, where Mr Eyeington became headteacher.

Mrs Eyeington, who was 61, worked as a teacher at the school. It was to be their last challenge before retirement.

At the time of the tragedy, Mr Eyeington's brother, John, described him as a "do-gooder" who was passionate about teaching and helping people.

He said his brother had rejected his family's pleas not to move to Somalia's self-declared republic of Somaliland.

He said: "We knew it was dangerous, and we thought he'd done enough already. But he was determined, and now he's paid for it with his life."

The conviction was based on weapons seized by the police and confessions.