In Depth

Hither Green burglary: vigilante destroys tributes to intruder stabbed by homeowner

Neighbours say they are ‘relieved’ that flowers and cards for Henry Vincent have been removed

Tributes to an intruder who was stabbed to death by a homeowner during a break-in have been torn down.

Henry Vincent, 37, and a second man were confronted by 78-year-old Richard Osborn-Brooks after breaking into his home at around 12.40am on 4 April. In the ensuing struggle, Osborn-Brooks fatally stabbed Vincent with a screwdriver.

Vincent was found in the street by police called to reports of a burglary. He was later pronounced dead.

A growing collection of cards, balloons and flowers had accumulated on a fence opposite the home in Hither Green, south-east London, where the fatal encounter occurred.

However, by Tuesday morning “burst balloons and soiled cards littered the area”, The Guardian reports, apparently the work of a lone vigilante who filmed himself dismantling the display.

The unnamed man was “infuriated” by reports that family and friends of the suspected burglar had turned the site of the break-in into a shrine, the London Evening Standard reports.

After obtaining permission from the owner of the fence, he filmed himself tearing down the cards and balloons and taking the floral bouquets to his car. He later wrote on Facebook that he had placed them in a nearby graveyard.

Vincent's cousin Phoebe Smith told the BBC that whoever had destroyed the display “should be ashamed of themselves”.

“It's terrible, they don't understand that it's somebody's child. They're a memory of a son and a friend,” she said.

Tributes included a card written by the 37-year-old’s children, and another one from his parents.

However, several neighbours backed the vigilante’s actions. Theresa Webb told the BBC that the large display was “inappropriate” and in “poor taste” .

“I'm relieved it is down,” she said.

Some locals also claimed that members of the Traveller community - of which Vincent was a member - had tried to intimidate residents of the street. One reported seeing a car “circling the block” while the tribute was being erected.

“There is the fear they might come back and cause a rumpus,” an unnamed neighbour said.

Osborn-Brooks learnt last Friday that he would face no further action over the incident, which quickly became a cause celebre for advocates of self-defence.

However, he and his wife Maureen “remain under police guard amid reports that friends of Vincent have threatened to take violent revenge”, reports the Guardian.

The windows of the property have been boarded up in case of reprisal attacks, says the BBC.

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