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Pair remanded on Pc murder charge

Two men accused of murdering an off-duty police constable have made their first appearance in court.

Pc Neil Doyle, 36, was attacked in Liverpool city centre in the early hours of last Friday during a Christmas night out with colleagues.

In a 10-minute hearing at Liverpool Crown Court, Andrew Taylor, 28, of Cherry Tree Road, Huyton, and Christopher Spendlove, 30, of Brandearth Hey, Stockbridge Village, were remanded in custody until January 6.

Up to 40 people crammed into the public gallery for the brief hearing.

Among those on one side of the gallery was believed to be Spendlove's mother, who gestured warmly to her son as he was led from the dock.

Both defendants spoke only to confirm their names and dates of birth.

Spendlove confirmed his date of birth as last Thursday.

Pc Doyle and two other off-duty officers were attacked in Colquitt Street at around 3.15am on Friday.

The two officers were treated in hospital for facial injuries.

Both defendants also face charges that they they caused grievous bodily harm with intent to those two officers, named in court today as Michael Steventon and Robert Marshall.

No applications for bail were made as the Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Clement Goldstone QC, adjourned the proceedings and said a trial date would be set at the next preliminary hearing.

Richard Pratt QC, representing Taylor, said there were some matters of "considerable anxiety" for his client which he wished to be aired in court, and were noted by the judge.

Following the hearing, Mr Pratt confirmed to the Press Association that Taylor wanted to "deflect" any suggestion that last Friday's incident was a targeted attack and that Taylor did not deliver any blows.

It is understood that both defendants, said to be close friends, played football together while studying at Oklahoma City University in the United States.

They were team-mates at US soccer league outfit Austin Aztex who were managed at the time by former Everton star Adrian Heath.

Taylor returned to the UK to sign for non-league team Forest Green Rovers in 2009 before later moves to Burscough FC and Vauxhall Motors.

Spendlove stayed in the US and went on to play for Portland Phoenix, Wilmington Hammerheads and Oklahoma City Energy FC, where he was announced as a new assistant coach in January.

Following Pc Doyle's death in hospital, his widow, Sarah, said in a statement: "Neil was very well loved by all of his family, friends and colleagues and it is a great loss to us all.

"We are finding it extremely difficult to come to terms with what has happened and need time to be left to grieve."

The couple married in July and were due to go on their honeymoon next month.

A post-mortem examination concluded that Pc Doyle died from a fatal bleed around the brain.

In a statement on Oklahoma City Energy FC's website, the club's general manager Jason Hawkins said: "We are stunned by the news today of murder charges being filed against OKC Energy FC assistant coach Chris Spendlove in England stemming from an altercation involving several individuals on Friday, December 19 ... Given the seriousness of the charges, we have made the decision to dismiss Chris from the organisation.

"That said, we are deeply saddened by the news of the incident and our hearts go out to the family of the police officer who lost his life. We are also disheartened for Chris. As an assistant coach, he was always professional and conducted himself in a proper and respectful manner. Our thoughts are also with him and his family during this difficult time."

A memorial fund has been set up in memory of Pc Doyle.

In a statement, Merseyside Police said: "Following the tragic death of Constable Neil Doyle in the early hours of Friday 19th December, Merseyside Police has been touched and heartened by the messages of sympathy and support we have received from people across the UK and beyond.

"We have also been overwhelmed by the number of people wishing to make a donation in memory of Neil. As a result, Merseyside Police Federation has set up a 'Just Giving' page where members of the public can donate to 'The Constable Neil Doyle Memorial Fund'.

"Neil's family will decide how the proceeds will be distributed in the near future."

Details can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/Neil-Doyle-memorial-fund

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