Following a dispute over a fancy dress Halloween hat in the early hours of 1 November 2009, Ben Gardner, aged 30, was punched and kicked in the head, causing such severe injuries that he never regained consciousness. He died later that day in intensive care at St Helier Hospital.
Today Jordon Dixon, aged 18, unemployed from Carshalton, Daniel Ransom, aged 21, unemployed, of Blake Close, Carshalton and Ross Collender, aged 21, unemployed, of Wigmore Road, Carshalton, have been found guilty of the murder.
All three will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday, 15 October.
Ben Gardner had gone out on Saturday 31 October with his girlfriend and a friend to celebrate Halloween. Ben was wearing fangs over his teeth and the girls were wearing pirate outfits with wigs and pirate hats. That night lots of people were wearing fancy dress for Halloween and the three friends left a club at approximately 0315hrs on Sunday 1 November to go and get some food before they went home.
Ben’s girlfriend waited on some steps whist Ben and his friend got the food – she was approached by three men, two of which were Collender and Ransom, who decided to steal her pirate hat from her head. She did not react to this, unaware that this incident would later lead to the attack that would kill Ben.
Approximately 18 minutes later Ben and the girls were on Throwley Way in Sutton when they came across the defendants. Jordon Dixon was wearing a witches’ hat on his head when Ben and the girls came across him. It is believed that Ben’s girlfriend, recognizing the men as those who took her pirate hat, mistook the witches’ hat to be hers.
The witches’ hat was dropped to the floor and Ben’s girlfriend went to pick it up. Jordon Dixon kicked it away from her hand, followed by Daniel Ransom kicking it twice into the road. Ransom then picked up the hat and spat in it before throwing it at her.
Ben was not moving at all when he was punched violently on the side of his head by Ross Collender. He stumbled to the side of the road and attempted to recover from the fall but as he crumpled forwards he was punched a second time by Dixon. Ben fell to his knees and before his head hit the ground, Daniel Ransom took a running kick at Ben’s head. Witnesses described the kick as a ‘penalty kick without the ball’.
Police were able to respond quickly and were on scene in three minutes. Officers gave first aid and Ben Gardener was taken to St Helier’s Hospital by the LAS. He was pronounced dead at 20:07hrs on 1 November. The post mortem revealed that Ben died from impacts or impact causing the violent rotation of his head, causing a tear in the vertebral artery and the fatal hemorrhaging inside his brain.
As the defendants left the scene they were seen to be laughing amongst each other. As they were turning into Greyhound Road, Daniel Ransom suddenly broke into a run. He was detained within ten minutes of the assault by officers and arrested on suspicion of GBH.
Ross Collender was arrested at approx 21:44hrs later that day, at his home address in Carshalton, on suspicion of murder.
Both men were charged on 3 November with murder.
Jordon Dixon was circulated as ‘wanted by police’ until his arrest on 9 January 2010. Police stopped a vehicle in Colliers Wood High Street and identified the passenger as Dixon.
Detective Inspector Bob Campany, from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, 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.
"It was predictable that they didn’t have the courage to plead guilty and take responsibility for their action, given the cowardly nature of their attack on Ben.
"However, the transition from this type of needless violence to a long prison sentence is even more seamless. 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. But the message to them is very clear: You will be caught and you will be convicted."
Sarah Davey, aged 42, of Throwley Way, Sutton was found not guilty of assisting an offender at the same trial.
Statement from the family of Ben Gardner:
"The day that Ben was murdered was the saddest day of our lives.
"It broke our hearts and has left family and friends permanently devastated words will never fully express how we feel but the torment and the misery we have endured over the past year speaks volumes.
"Our pain today is still unbearable.
"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.
"They may have a life sentence but so do we as we will never see Ben again.
"We would like to thank the police for all their hard work and dedication to this case and for the many friends who have shown such support and love.
"This case has shown the importance and value of CCTV and joint enterprise and we hope it brings to people’s attention what can result in being involved in an incident.
"We will never forget Ben and I hope each day when his murderers look in the mirror they won’t forget what they did and that it will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
"This is the last statement that the family will be making and we respectfully ask that the press and media leave us now alone to come to terms with our loss and pain and let us grieve in peace. We ask especially for the newspapers and especially our local paper the Sutton Guardian to refrain from publishing pictures of Ben as it distresses his family and friends greatly.