London

Men jailed for Ben Gardner Halloween hat murder

Daniel Ransom, Jordan Dixon and Ross Collender
Image caption The three murdered Mr Gardner with no provocation

Three men have been jailed for life for murdering a man on Halloween in a row over his girlfriend's fancy dress hat.

Ben Gardner, 30, was punched and kicked in Sutton, south London, in October 2009 after 28-year-old Allana Devine's pirate hat was snatched.

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

Ransom and Collender will serve a minimum of 16 years while Dixon was given a minimum term of 14 years.

Judge Richard Hone said: "The three of you jointly attacked and cowardly murdered a decent, gold standard young man of exceptional character, charm, gentleness and ability, who gave absolutely no provocation.

"His attributes shine and sparkle in contrast to your base metal."

The jury had been shown CCTV of the attack and its aftermath.

The judge said the "look of pleasure" on the faces of Collender and Ransom after the killing was "really rather a disgusting picture" and that Miss Devine, 28, must have suffered "traumatic effects" from seeing the attack on him.

Previous convictions

The court heard that Collender had 10 previous convictions including offences of dishonesty, violence and possession of ammunition, and he had regularly breached community orders.

Dixon had 13 including violence and knife possession and had also breached community orders.

Mr Gardner, who was an IT worker 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 black hat and black wig she was wearing.

Image caption Mr Gardner was punched and kicked in the street

The couple 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.

The court heard Ms Devine was also punched during the incident.

Ransom then kicked the "utterly defenceless" Mr Gardner 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.

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