Five men guilty of violent street fight in Houghton Regis

Luton Crown Court
Luton Crown Court

Five men were found guilty of violent disorder after a bloody street fight in Houghton Regis where metal poles, a baseball bat, meat cleaver and Samurai nunchuks were used.

Horrific violence broke out on the green at Recreation Road on June 25 in a fight between two rival groups.

Phone footage captured John Burden Snr, 49, and sons John Burden Jnr, 26, and Shaun Burden, 22, up against a large mob containing Michael Searle, 21, Ben Barker, 21, and 19-year-old Taylor Benford.

The men appeared at Luton Crown Court from last week, except Taylor Benford, who has absconded.

The footage showed Ben Barker carrying a scaffolding pole. John Burden Snr, of Maidenbower Avenue, Dunstable, was seen wielding a meat cleaver, while John Burden Jnr carried a baseball bat and Shaun Burden held the nunchuks. The four men were each found guilty of carrying an offensive weapon.

Michael Searle, of Recreation Road, was found not guilty of the latter charge.

The men have been remanded in custody ahead of sentencing on Friday, with the exception of Shaun Burden – who will be sentenced on February 2 after a pre-sentence report is prepared.

The prosecution alleged they were all as bad as each other over the violence – which saw John Burden Jnr admitted to hospital with serious head injuries.

Only Ben Barker and John Burden Jnr opted to give evidence in court.

Machine operator Ben Barker claimed his group had been threatened by the Burden brothers earlier in the day at Recreation Road.

He said: “We heard a car come wheel spinning. Out of curiosity, we turned around to see who it was. The driver was looking at us.

“He turned around at the opposite end of the road and at that point we noticed it was John Burden Jnr in the drivers’ seat and Shaun Burden in the passenger seat.

“They jumped out and John started throwing threats, saying ‘what the f*** are you looking at, do you know who we are?’ They just carried on shouting.”

Barker claimed that he and Michael Searle tried to calm the situation while the Burden brothers threatened to come back “with an army”.

After the brothers left, Barker alleged John Burden Snr arrived later to confront the group, making similar threats before leaving.

Barker claimed his group were simply socialising on the green. He said: “About half an hour later, we heard a lot of shouting. We could see the Burdens’ heads just above the bush with their arms raised and they were carrying some sort of weapons.

“No-one was expecting them to turn up, it took us all by surprise. They came on to the grass outside of Recreation Road and they turned around, started swinging the weapons saying they were going to cut us up.”

Barker claimed he picked up a metal bar he found in the front garden of Mr Searle’s home, while others similarly picked up things around them.

He denied anyone in his group was armed or went into the house to grab weapons.

Giving his version of events, John Burden Jnr claimed his father and brother came to his aid after he was set upon by Searle and Barker’s group.

Burden said he was walking his dog down Recreation Road when a group of around 15 people began jeering at him.

He said: “It was too many people, too many voices, I just tried to ignore it and kept my head down. But the words got more irritating and disgusting, and so I said something back.”

Burden said he was called “all different sorts of names” and gave examples in court.

He said: “I wished I’d never said what I said because it ended up with me nearly dying. They got quite hyped up and aggressive, saying ‘this is what you wanted’.”

Burden claimed he phoned his father for help twice as he was attacked by the group with weapons. After being pushed to the ground, his t-shirt was allegedly torn from him before his father and brother arrived.

He said: “I started running straight down towards him [his father]. There were people with weapons that are looking to hit me with them. There were so many of them, the biggest ones I could see were scaffolding poles, baseballs bats, samurai swords. There were lots more but I didn’t have time to see it.

“Hundreds of tiles were being thrown, they started throwing weapons. I picked up a wooden baseball bat.”

In the video footage, John Burden Snr can be seen holding a meat cleaver, while John Burden Jnr holds a baseball bat and his brother Samurai nunchuks. Items can be seen being thrown at them by the larger group.

The Burdens claimed they picked up the weapons from items thrown by the mob.

John Burden Jnr was later taken to hospital with six different injuries, including severe head wounds. Scars on the back and side of his head were still clearly visible in court.