BEATEN TO DEATH OVER WITCH'S HAT; Brave Ben murdered by thugs.
A HALLOWEEN reveller was murdered because he dared confront a gang of yobs stealing his girlfriend's fancy dress hat.
Ben Gardner, 30, was battered to death when the drunken thugs rained punches and kicks on him.
He and girlfriend Elana, 28, were walking past a pool hall on the way home from a nightclub party when a man grabbed her witch's hat.
The vile yob spat inside it when Ben stepped in. Then the gang of louts launched a brutal assault on him and one punched Elana in the face.
Ben was left unconscious in the road by the yobs in the early hours of Sunday. He died in hospital of head injuries that evening.
His best friend Will Fearnley-Whit-tingstall, 30, yesterday called the killing "senseless". The cousin of TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall said of Ben: "He was best man at my wedding. He was like a brother to me. We grew up together as neighbours and used to ride bikes together in the park.
"His girlfriend was wearing a wig and a costume and as they were walking towards the police station she was accosted by a group of lads who stopped her and tried to take her wig off.
"Ben tried to intervene and help her, but he was punched once and fell to the ground, then he was kicked and punched more."
Ben never regained consciousness and Will, of Farnborough, Hants, was at hospital when he died.
Will added: "I know this is going to sound clichd, but Ben was very happy-go-lucky, everyone's friend, always had a smile on.
"He loved his friends and his family very much. He was godfather to my three-year-old son."
Ben had just bought a flat in Sutton, South London, and was a member of darts and bowling teams and supported Liverpool FC. Will went on: "He was always out socialising and also enjoyed playing computer games. He was a regular 30-year-old. He was very happy. His mum died when he was 12 and he lived with his nanna.
"She was more like his mother, and he loved her. First she's lost her daughter and now Ben.
"She's devastated, they all are. I had an email from him last Thursday. Last time I saw him was six weeks ago when he was best man at my wedding."
Ex-bank employee Ben had for the past year worked for Legal & General in Kingswood, Surrey.
His grandmother was too upset to speak yesterday at her home near the scene of the killing in Sutton.
Six men and two women were held in connection with the attack. One man was released but the others were last night still in custody at South London police stations.
Detectives from the Metropolitan Police homicide and serious crime command, led by Det Insp Bob Campany, are investigating.
Mr Campany said: "Although it was 3.30am there were a lot of people in the area at the time of the incident as the local clubs were closing.
"This appears to be a violent unprovoked attack on an innocent man who was out enjoying Halloween night with his girlfriend."
SCENE Pool hall where Ben was attacked outside SMILER Ben was recently best man at his pal's wedding
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Nov 3, 2009|
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