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Murder accused James Rutherford may stand trial early next year accused of killing Andrew Saint.
Rutherford is accused of attacking the 64-year-old, who died three weeks after he was allegedly assaulted in Bedlington, Northumberland.
Rutherford, 37, made his first appearance at Newcastle Crown Court via a video-link to HMP Durham on Thursday.
The charge was not put to him but a provisional trial date was set for January 12 next year, with a time estimate of seven days.
Judge Paul Sloan QC told him: "I'm going to adjourn this case to a further pre-trial hearing. That will be listed on September 1 and you will be linked in on that date as you have been today.
"You should understand, if you have committed any offence or offences arising out of these allegations, the sooner that's communicated to the court, the better for you, the more credit you will receive. The longer you leave it, the worse it will be for you."