17-year-old is charged with Rhys murder

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The Independent Online

The parents of schoolboy Rhys Jones today came face-to-face in court with their son's alleged killer.

Melanie and Stephen Jones sat just yards from the 17-year-old boy as he appeared at Liverpool Magistrates Court, accused of the murder of 11-year-old Rhys.

The boy, dressed in a black hooded tracksuit and with short brown hair, was flanked by two security guards as he was brought into the dock.

He spoke in a heavy Liverpudlian accent only to confirm his name and address.

The youth cannot be named for legal reasons because of his age.

Rhys' mother broke into tears, dabbing at her eyes with a white handkerchief, as she clung on to the arm of her husband, who was sitting with HIS arms folded, breathing deeply and shifting his position to get a better look at the youth.

The suspect's mother, dressed in a black trouser suit and black coat, was taken from the back of the court to sit just in front of the dock.

The youngster nodded to her as he was told to stand and the hearing began.

David Maxwell, prosecuting, read out the charge: "On the 22nd of the eighth 2007, at the Fir Tree public house car park, Fir Tree Drive, Liverpool, he murdered Rhys Jones contrary to common law. The prosecution is seeking a remand in custody, he is a youth."

No plea was entered and the facts of the case were not opened.

District Judge Richard Clancy agreed to remand the accused into custody for one week, but said he hoped a trial could be proceeded with as soon as possible.

"Because he's a youth it's necessary to move the case on as quickly as possible," the judge said.

Addressing the defendant, he said: "If you stand up, you appreciate you are charged with an extremely serious matter.

"You'll be remanded, in the first instance to the 25th April at 9.45am, we will try to deal with that by video link."

The youth again nodded to his mother before he was led from the dock back to the cells.

The murder suspect appeared alone for the brief hearing.

But three other teenagers, two aged 16 and a 17-year-old, all charged with assisting an offender, also appear at the same court today.

One of the 16-year-olds has also been charged with possession of a firearm.

Before proceedings began, Judge Clancy made an order banning the identification of any of the youths appearing in court.

He also banned a court artist from making a sketch of any of the proceedings. He told the courtroom, packed with around 30 members of the press: "Because of the fact that people are arrested and charged does not mean they are guilty of the facts.

"I have to be very careful about publicity at this stage. I have to be so careful, not showing any bias whatsoever.

"I appreciate there are many, many people who would like to get all the details and background but it would affect the nature of the trial. I just want to ensure there is fairness all around."