Two teenagers have been cleared of murdering an Oxfordshire businessman who died after a fight outside a late night takeaway.

James Diggins, 19, and Kes Ingoldsby, 18, denied killing father-of-two Stephen Langford, 43, during a street brawl in Henley last year.

Both were cleared at Inner London Crown Court yesterday of murder and man- slaughter.

The trial heard that Mr Langford died after he was punched and kicked by Diggins and Ingoldsby, but that he was the aggressor.

Outside court, Ingoldsby sobbed in relief as he and Diggins were hugged by relatives and friends.

After the verdict, Mr Langford's family paid tribute to the sales director, who was also chairman of Henley Round Table.

The family said: "Steve was suddenly and cruelly taken from us - leaving a huge vacuum for his family and friends. Violence can only bring suffering, pain and long term hurt.

"We live in a diseased society, one that needs urgent help to bring back important family and community values to prevent this happening again."

Investigating officer Det Chief Insp Pete Dowling said: "How a happy and enjoyable night turned into a nightmare for so many people has been the subject of much debate during this trial."

The court heard Mr Langford spent December 9 enjoying himself with friends in Henley. Later, on their way home in the early hours, he decided to buy some food at the Southern Fried Chicken and Pizza Takeaway, in Grey's Road.

Witnesses described the sales director "laughing and joking" with staff at the shop, where he was a regular.

But the atmosphere soured when Diggins, Ingoldsby, his girlfriend and another youth arrived. As the two older men waited for their food, Mr Langford and Ingoldsby began staring at each other.

Following an increasingly bad-tempered exchange, the teenagers left.

Ingoldsby told the court that as he went through the door Mr Langford tried to grab him as further words were exchanged.

Ingoldsby told jurors he did not want a fight.

He said seconds later Mr Langford left the takeaway and charged towards him with his fists clenched.

Diggins maintained he was so concerned his friend was about to be attacked that he punched Mr Langford in the face.

The court heard the blow knocked the executive backwards and his head struck the ground so hard witnesses heard his skull crack.

Diggins, from Reading, admitted he 'half-heartedly' kicked Mr Langford in his hip as he lay on the floor because he was scared he might get up. Ingoldsby, of Wargrave Road, in Henley, accepted he hit him, but said it was a single slap.

Prosecution witness Desmond Dominic told the jury Mr Langford was the aggressor.

He said: "If they hadn't swung at him, he would have hit them. I would say the first hit was in self-defence."