'Rot in hell', murder accused told

A man accused of raping and murdering a mother-of-two was told: "Rot in hell, you f****** rat!" as he appeared in court.

Michael Cope, 28, entered not guilty pleas to assaulting and raping Linzi Ashton, via video-link from jail when he clashed with members of his alleged victim's family who were sitting in court.

He pleaded not guilty to three counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and one of rape relating to Miss Ashton, 25, in the months before he allegedly murdered her.

The single charge of murder, on June 29, was not put to the defendant during the brief hearing at Manchester Crown Court.

As he entered his not guilty pleas to the other charges, two female members of Miss Ashton's family burst into tears.

Judge Robert Atherton asked them if they would prefer to leave the courtroom.

Cope then said: "It's the truth", and a man with Miss Ashton's family shouted: "Rot in hell, you f****** rat!"

He left the court as Judge Atherton said: "I'm not prepared to have that language in my court."

Miss Ashton, a barmaid, was discovered with multiple injuries at her home in Winton, Salford, Greater Manchester, on June 29.

Cope was remanded back into custody and the case was listed for a further hearing on November 11. A trial is scheduled to begin on January 20 next year.

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