A GRANDAD accused of murder in Tenerife believes he is one step closer to clearing his name after a trial date was finally set.
Stephen Johnson, 56, , says he is celebrating after being told he will stand trial in the Spanish holiday island in just a few weeks time.
The Wearside businessman has been waiting for his case to be heard since he was first arrested in January 2008 over the fatal stabbing of a 25-year-old Moroccan man.
Mr Johnson, who runs Stepys Coaches in Hetton, has always denied the allegation and has been waiting for the chance to clear himself of any wrong-doing.
A family friend said: “This is three-and-a-half years down the road and it’s an absolute disgrace that it’s taken this long.
“He’s over the moon that a date has been set and it’s an absolute relief for him.
“I know he may be the only man in the world who’s looking forward to going to court on a murder charge, but at the end of the day he’s done nothing wrong and just wants to get out there and have the chance to clear his name.”
Mr Johnson is with his family at his Hetton home after being allowed to return to the UK for seven weeks to undergo medical treatment for arthritis and high cholesterol levels.
He has been told he must leave wife Joan and the rest of his family on June 7 to return to Tenerife where he must hand in his passport before the start of the trial on July 4.
Mr Johnson is said to be confident over the outcome of the case after employing one of the best lawyers on the island.
A friend added: “He’s said it feels like this is the start of him getting his life back. Although his family have been crying, at the end of the day he’s just pleased to have got the trial date and hopefully the chance to clear his name.”
Mr Johnson was arrested after an incident in an area of the Playa de las Americas resort known as the Patch.
He claims he only acted as a Good Samaritan to stop a fight between people he did not know and was left badly injured.