The long-awaited David and Goliath libel court clash between the McDonald's hamburger empire and two London environmentalists reached the final pre-trial stages of preparation today. A High Court judge sat in private to hear argument on legal issues raised in the case, which begins in earnest tomorrow with opening speeches from McDonald's counsel and is expected to run for three or four months. Mr Justice Bell is to hear the case without a jury - the defendants, Dave Morris, 39, and Helen Steel, 28, have failed in repeated attempts to persuade the courts that the row should be resolved in the usual way by a panel of jurors. The pair - from London Greenpeace, which has no connection with Greenpeace International - are being sued by the multi-national fast-food giant over claims in a leaflet they distributed entitled "What's wrong with McDonald's. " It contained serious allegations, including a link between McDonald's food and illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and food poisoning. The leaflet also attacked the company's employment policies and the alleged environmental effect of some of its practices. Mr Morris and Ms Steel will represent themselves at the hearing. Their attempts to secure a jury trial failed because it was ruled that issues relating to the safety of the company's food required careful and prolonged examination of a mass of complex scientific evidence culminating in a reasoned judgment from a judge rather than a simple jury verdict.