A 16-year-old boy has appeared in court this afternoon accused of strangling a teaching assistant in a random attack.

The teenager, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, appeared at Preston Crown Court via videolink from HMP Wetherby, charged with the murder of 47-year-old mother-of-two Lindsay Birbeck, whose body was found in Accrington Cemetery in August.

The youngster, from Accrington, who appeared only to state his name, age, address and nationality, told Judge Mark Brown, The Honorary Recorder of Preston, that he would be pleading not guilty to murdering Mrs Birbeck.

A trial date of February 25 has been fixed for the same court and is expected to last two weeks.

Mrs Birbeck went missing from her home in Huncoat on Monday August 12, and her disappearance prompted wide-ranging searches by hundreds of members of the community.

Her body was found in Accrington Cemetery on August 24, and a murder inquiry was launched. A post-mortem examination showed she died as a result of compression of the neck.

Paying tribute, her two children Steven and Sarah described her as “a great mum and wife, much-loved daughter, loving aunty and sister-in-law and a great friend”.