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Huntley accused 'not fit for trial'

An armed robber alleged to have strangled a paedophile after attempting to kill Soham murderer Ian Huntley may not be fit to face trial, a court heard today.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are examining whether Damien Fowkes, 35, is mentally fit to enter pleas to charges of murder, attempted murder, and wounding with intent.

Huntley's throat was slashed with a makeshift knife in Frankland Prison, Durham, in March last year.

Fowkes, from Northampton, is accused of inflicting a seven-inch wound on Huntley's neck using a blade fashioned from a toothbrush and razor blade when they were in the kitchens.

School caretaker Huntley was jailed for life for the 2002 murders of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambridgeshire.

While on remand at Full Sutton prison near York in February, Fowkes is alleged to have strangled to death Colin Hatch, a paedophile who was serving life for the 1994 murder of seven-year-old Sean Williams.

Fowkes appeared before a judge at Newcastle Crown Court via videolink from Wakefield Prison, where he is being held.

During the short hearing, the alleged killer stared intently at his monitor screen as the charges against him were outlined.

He was not arraigned and he did not enter a plea.

Dressed in grey prison overalls and wearing a white knitted beanie hat, he rested his chin on his right hand, which was covered in prison tattoos.

He spoke only to answer his name and to greet his barrister, Joe Stone, with a thumbs up before answering "Okay, thank you, thank you. Allahu Akbar," when he was addressed by Mr Justice Simon.

Reports into Fowkes mental state are due from both the prosecution and defence legal teams in the coming months, when a fresh indictment will be prepared.

The judge ordered that a previous indictment against him, linked to the attack on Hatch, be stayed.

Another, linked to the attack on Huntley, was quashed.

The judge joined the cases and set a provisional date for trial on October 4, before a High Court judge sitting at Hull Crown Court.