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Judge says machete brawl turned Barton shops into ‘warzone’


Aug 15, 2022

A Barton shopfront turned into a ‘war zone’ during a machete brawl that a judge decided was connected to ‘some sort of turf war’.

Lewis Brown, 21, who was given 10-and-a-half years earlier this summer for fatally stabbing his drugs line’s customer Lee Butler last October, was among the participants – together with 18-year-old Cameron Merritt and Andee Williams aka Morton, 50.

Sentencing the men at Oxford Crown Court on Friday, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said of the Underhill Circus fracas: “The area became, for a short time, something of a war zone. There were at least 10 men involved, mostly young men.

“I have asked counsel for Mr Morton what this was all about. I have been given no explanation that holds water.

“Knowing what is found in some of the men’s property, I have come to the conclusion this is something connected to drugs and is probably some sort of turf war.”

The background to the incident, which began outside the Spar supermarket and was captured on CCTV, was unclear.

It began when Brown was pushed backwards. He could be seen trading punches with another man.

Oxford Mail: The brawl began outside the Spar shop in Underhill Circus, Barton Picture: OMThe brawl began outside the Spar shop in Underhill Circus, Barton Picture: OM

The fighting then spilled onto nearby Stowford Road, with machetes apparently drawn by others in the group.

Williams, who denied brandishing a machete during the brawl, was said to have gone to the defence of younger members of the group.

When the older man was arrested, he was found to have a large ‘hunting’ knife in his rucksack. He claimed to have confiscated it from a child several days previously.

Judge Gledhill rejected that explanation as ‘ludicrous’. ‘Powder’ had been found in the bag, although it had been checked and was not drugs.

During a testy exchange between prosecution counsel and judge, it emerged the barrister representing the Crown Prosecution Service, who appeared over video link, did not have access to Brown’s latest list of previous convictions and was unaware he was currently serving a manslaughter sentence.

The Crown’s difficulties on Friday echoed issues during Williams’ trial last November, which had to be abandoned when the CPS – then represented in court by a different lawyer – bungled the disclosure of key CCTV to the defendant’s lawyers.

Williams, of Westlands Drive, pleaded guilty ahead of his retrial this summer to affray and possession of a bladed article. Brown, of Barton Village Road, and Merritt, of Bayswater Road, admitted affray and possession of a bladed article.

Noting his significant medical issues, Judge Gledhill suspended Williams’ two year jail term for two years, ordered he do 25 rehabilitation sessions and pay £300 in costs.

Brown, who at the time of the June brawl had no previous convictions, received four-and-a-half months’ imprisonment. It will be served alongside his manslaughter sentence.

Merritt, whose barrister was not present at Friday’s hearing, will be sentenced at a later date.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward