London

Trio guilty of Ben Gardner 'Halloween hat' murder

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Media captionCCTV cameras caught the moment the hat was stolen and the attack on Ben Gardner

Three men have been found guilty of murdering an IT worker on Halloween in a row over his girlfriend's hat.

Ben Gardner, 30, was punched and kicked in Sutton, south London, in October 2009 after the hat was snatched.

Allanna Devine, 28, was also punched as her boyfriend lay injured. The attack happened after Ms Devine asked for her hat back, the Old Bailey heard.

Daniel Ransom and Ross Collender, both 21, and Jordan Dixon, 18, of Carshalton, had denied murder.

Mr Gardner, who worked for insurance firm Legal & General, had been to a club with Ms Devine to celebrate her birthday.

In the early hours of the morning, Ms Devine was waiting for him outside a kebab shop when a group of men snatched a pirate's hat and black wig she was wearing, the court heard.

'Like a penalty kick'

They did not react to the provocation.

But later in the evening as they returned to Ms Devine's home they saw the group loitering, the court heard.

When she asked for the hat back she was verbally abused.

Collender then "suddenly and unexpectedly" punched Mr Gardner in the face. He was also punched by Dixon, falling on to his back in the road.

Image caption Mr Gardner was punched and kicked in the street

Ransom then kicked the "utterly defenceless" IT worker in the head.

It was described by witnesses as being like a "penalty kick" and Mr Gardner died on 1 November from catastrophic brain damage.

Mr Gardner's father, David, said, in a statement which was read out in court: "I cannot forgive these people for what they have done, they have destroyed me and my family for the rest of our lives."

A further statement from the family after the verdict, added: "We are satisfied with the verdict today as Ben has been deprived of his life and it's only right that these murderers should be deprived of enjoying their lives."

Outside court, Det Insp Bob Campany said: "This tragic case highlights just how easy the transition from anti-social behaviour to standing trial at the Old Bailey for murdering another human being really is.

"Sadly, the stage is set every Friday and Saturday night for innocent young lives, like Ben's, to be taken in this way.

"Some young men are just hell-bent on violence, usually when under the influence of drink or drugs or a combination of both, and they plague our town centres."

Ransom, Collender and Dixon were remanded in custody to be sentenced on Friday.

Judge Richard Hone said they would be jailed for life but he had to fix a minimum sentence.

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