The mother of a primary schoolgirl who was stabbed and beaten to death almost 30 years ago broke down in tears as a man accused of her murder denied the charge.
Nikki Allan, seven, was found dead in a derelict building after going missing near her family home in Sunderland on October 7 1992.
David Thomas Boyd, 54, of Norton, Teesside, appeared at Newcastle Crown Court via a videolink from prison for a 25-minute hearing.
Wearing a mask over his chin, he pleaded not guilty when the clerk read out the charge.
Nikki’s mother Sharon Henderson sat in the public gallery, backed by well-wishers.
She burst into tears when the charge was read out, was consoled by supporters and the court usher gave her a tissue.
Judge Paul Sloan QC adjourned the case and said the trial, which could last up to six weeks, will take place in either January or April.
Boyd was remanded in custody ahead of the trial.
Nikki had been at her grandparents’ flat before she vanished and a desperate search was launched when she failed to make return to her own home in the same block.
The following morning she was found inside the then-derelict Old Exchange Building after her coat and shoes were spotted. She had been stabbed 37 times.