A SUSPECTED arsonist has made his first crown court appearance, accused of starting a fire on board a North Sea ferry.
Two crew members and four passengers had to be winched off the DFDS Seaways vessel after breathing in smoke as a blaze took hold in a cabin 30 miles out to sea.
A further 15 passengers and eight crew members were treated by doctors for smoke-related injuries after the incident last month.
The ferry was forced to return to the Port of Tyne, where two people, both from Sunderland, were arrested.
Boden George Hughes, of Fulwell Road, is accused of arson reckless to endangering life and affray.
The 26-year-old appeared at Newcastle Crown Court today via videolink to HMP Durham.
He spoke only to confirm his name, and was not asked to enter pleas to the charge.
Hughes will be back in court on March 18 to ask how he pleads.
A trial hearing, with a 10-day estimate, has been listed for June 30.
No application was made for bail.
A second Sunderland man, who is 28, who was arrested for affray and has been bailed pending further inquiries.
Some 946 passengers and almost 130 crew were on board the Amsterdam-bound ferry.