TWO men have denied murdering Blackburn father-of-eight Steven Thurston.

Appearing at Preston Crown Court over a video link from Preston Prison, George Preshur 30, and Andrew Tait, 22, both of Keele Walk, Blackburn, spoke only to confirm their names, dates of birth and British nationality, and enter their not guilty pleas in the 20-minute hearing.

A trial date had already been set for December 9. It is expected to last for between five and seven days and will be heard before the Recorder of Preston, Judge Mark Brown.

Police launched a murder enquiry after the body of Mr Thurston, 50, was found inside his home on Sussex Drive, Blackburn, at about 12.50am on June 6.

Preshur and Tait were arrested on suspicion of murder and subsequently charged.

A 52-year-old woman, from Blackburn, was also arrested in connection with the investigation but was released under investigation.

Prosecuting, Paul Brookwell, said Mr Thurston suffered a number of skull fractures.

A Home Office post-mortem examination concluded he died from significant head injuries.

Neither Clare Thomas, for Tait, nor Mark Stuart, for Preshur, made an application for bail on behalf of their clients.

Preshur and Tait were both remanded in custody until their next court appearance, which will be a pre-trial review on November 8.

Barrister Francis McEntee is expected to prosecute the trial.

Judge Brown said: “You will appreciate the trial is listed on December 9. Between now and then there is quite a lot of work that needs to be done by both sides of the case.

“I have fixed a pre-trial review hearing on November 8. In the meantime you are both remanded in custody.”

READ > Vodka-swigging drink-driver told traffic warden: F*** off, I run this town

Mr Thurston had lived in Blackburn all his life and studied at Longshaw Community Junior School before moving to the former Everton High School in Manxman Road. He had been homeless during spells of his life and had stayed in hostels.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, his sister, Linda Livesey, said Mr Thurston’s family were finding it hard to come to terms with his sudden death.

Mrs Livesey said: “He was very caring. If he had two cigarettes he would always give one away. That was the kind of person he was. He would be very kind to other people in his situation, to other homeless people.”