Two men have pleaded not guilty to the murder of a man found dead with multiple injuries.
Nicholas Rought and Stuart Smith are both accused of killing John Hall in County Durham earlier this year.
Rought and Smith denied the charge of murder during a hearing at Newcastle Crown Court, where they appeared via videolink to HMP Durham.
Mr Hall was found dead in West Rainton, County Durham, on Sunday, September 15.
The grandfather and father-of-two, of Burn Terrace, Shiney Row, County Durham, died as a result of multiple injuries.
His body was found in a back lane by a dog walker.
Three men were initially charged with the murder of Mr Hall.
However, one of those men, Paul Tate, 49, was found dead in his cell at Holme House Prison in Stockton, Teesside.
An investigation by the independent prisons ombudsman into Mr Tate’s death has been launched.
Rought, 45, of Princess Street, Shiney Row, and Smith, 42, of no fixed address, will be tried by a jury next year.
Judge James Goss QC told them: “You have pleaded not guilty. I am confirming the trial will commence on March 17, with an estimated length of 10 days.”
A further pre-trial hearing will take place in January.
Rought and Smith were both remanded in custody.
Another suspect questioned and released over the alleged murder of Mr Hall was also found dead.
Police were called after the discovery of Trevor Kellett’s body at a house in Avenue Vivian in Fence Houses, County Durham.
Mr Kellett was arrested in the immediate death of Mr Hall’s murder on September 15.
Mr Hall, 46, of Burn Road, Shiney Row, Sunderland, was found dead having suffered multiple injuries in a lane at West Rainton, near Durham City.
Mr Kellett’s death is not being treated as suspicious.