Surrey 'Halloween' Trial Starts

An IT expert was killed after his girlfriend's Halloween hat and wig were snatched by thugs on a night out in Surrey, the Old Bailey has been told.

Ben Gardner, 30, was punched to the ground where he lay helpless as one of three men kicked his head ``as if taking a penalty''. As he lay dying in the road, his girlfriend, Allanna Devine, 28, was also punched as the attackers ran off, jurors heard.

Daniel Ransom, 21, Ross Collender, 21, and Jordan Dixon, 18, all of Carshalton, Surrey, deny murder.

Mr Gardner, who worked for insurance firm Legal & General, had been to a club with Miss Devine to celebrate her birthday on October 31 last year. In the early hours of the morning, Miss Devine was waiting for him outside a kebab shop in Sutton, Surrey, when a group of men snatched a pirate's hat and black wig she was wearing.

Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said she did not react but later, as the couple approached her home around the corner, they saw three of the group near a Halloween hat on the ground. Miss Devine asked for her hat back but was verbally abused, said Mr Altman.

``As Miss Devine went to pick up a black witch's hat which had been thrown by someone unconnected into the road, Dixon booted it away. Ransom kicked and stamped on it, and in a quite provocative and contemptuous act, spat in it and threw it at her.''

Then Collender ``suddenly and unexpectedly'' punched Mr Gardner on the left side of the face, Mr Altman said. As he recoiled from the blow, Mr Gardner was punched by Dixon and fell on to his back in the road, it was alleged.

Mr Altman said Ransom then kicked an ``utterly defenceless'' Mr Gardner's head - described by witnesses as being like someone taking a penalty kick. The victim died in the early hours of November 1 last year from ``catastrophic brain damage''.

Mr Altman told the jury the defendants had become ``senselessly aggressive'' towards Mr Gardner and were ``spoiling for a fight''. He said: ``It was an all too familiar story of town centre loutish behaviour.''

Mr Altman said Ransom and Collender were arrested soon after the incident but Dixon evaded arrest until January this year. Sarah Davey, 41, of Sutton, denies assisting an offender by harbouring him.

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