Murder trial of four accused of killing John Littlewood in Blackhall Colliery on hold due to coronavirus

The trial of four people who deny the murder of Blackhall dad John Littlewood has been put on hold due to the coronavirus.

Tuesday, 21st April 2020, 8:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 12:57 pm

John Littlewood, 36, known as John D, died of head injuries in a house in Third Street in the village, with his body found on Tuesday, July 30, last year.

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Donna Balfour, Ninth Street, 35, and James Riley, 30, both of Ninth Street in Blackhall Colliery, and Marty Bates, 30 and Tracey Bunney, 44, both of Tenth Street, also Blackhall Colliery, deny his murder.

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John Littlewood, who was known as John D by his friends and family, died in a house in Third Street in Blackhall Colliery on Tuesday, July 30, last year.

Their trial, which was expected to last four weeks, was due to begin at Teesside Crown Court on Wednesday, April 22.

However, no trials expected to last beyond three days are going ahead during the coronavirus pandemic.

The case has been listed to be put before the court on Monday, May 4, to relist a new trial date.

A judge is also still to confirm the outcome of his decision following an application by Balfour and Riley’s legal teams last month to have the case against them dismissed.

Murder Scene, Third Street, Blackhall.

During a hearing last month Lisa Wilding QC, representing Balfour, who gave birth to a daughter in January, said: “We say there is insufficient evidence in this case.”

Judge Paul Watson QC told the court he would take time to consider their application, but the outcome is still to be reported back to the court.

As he confirmed a decision to pause longer trials last month, Lord Chief Justice, The Lord Burnett of Maldon, said: “Trials in the crown court present particular problems in a fast-developing situation because they require the presence in court of many different participants including the judge, the jury, a defendant, lawyers and witnesses as well as staff.

Police cordoned off the house as part of inquiries into the tragic death of John Littlewood.

“Given the risks of a trial not being able to complete, I have decided that no new trial should start in the crown court unless it is expected to last for three days or less.

“All cases estimated to last longer than three days listed to start before the end of April 2020 will be adjourned.

“These cases will be kept under review and the position regarding short trials will be revisited as circumstances develop and in any event next week.”

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