Floral tributes to a burglar killed during his final raid have been torn down for a fourth time as the row between his relatives and residents continues.
Henry Vincent, 37, was stabbed to death last week during a break-in at the home of Richard Osborn-Brooks, 78, in Hither Green, south London.
Since his death, his family have left flowers and cards on a fence opposite the pensioner’s home in tribute – but each time they have been ripped down.
They were torn from the fence for a third time on Tuesday evening and once more today by angry local campaigner, Iain Gordon, from the Fair Society group.
Mr Gordon said: ‘These people are scumbags, scumbags, scumbags.
‘If you don’t know why I pulled the flowers down then you aren’t a human being. Would you go around allowing someone to stab your parents? Would you allow someone to come round with a screwdriver? And then be considered human beings?’
Mr Gordon, who wore a jacket marked Voluntary Services Lewisham, ripped down more than a dozen bunches of flowers before gathering them on the pavement and stamping on them.
When asked why he tore down the flowers, he said: ‘In this country there should be no rights for criminals.
‘The only thing they should get in prison is bread and water.’
He added: ‘They have got money for flowers and you know where the money came from? Their daddy. What is it? Daddy Vincent taking it from old people and laughing about it.’
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Police earlier sent in officers on horseback to the street in an effort to diffuse the row.
Although police have been patrolling the area, they said they cannot intervene in the row as no crime is being committed.
Balloons, cards and flowers were removed by supporters of the pensioner, with whom Vincent was involved in a struggle when he broke into the south-east London address on April 4.
On Tuesday afternoon, his loved ones reattached the mementos opposite the property on South Park Crescent.
Elvina Lee, who said she was Vincent’s first cousin, called whoever pulled the tributes down “scum”.
She said: “This is the best place for these flowers to be. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people. I think they’re scum.”
Regarding Vincent she said: “He was like a brother to me, he loved his family and his three babies. He wasn’t a murderer, he wasn’t a rapist, they’re putting him as a monster.”
The memorial was pulled down on the second occasion by a man who called it an “insult” to Mr Osborn-Brooks.
After relatives started to put the memorial back, a woman, who said she was Vincent’s aunt, said: “If people leave the flowers alone within a week they’ll die, we will come here, clean this road, and go and never come back.
“All we want is them just left until the flowers die and we will take them away.”
The dispute came as a coroner returned the body of the burglar back to his family during an inquest opening on Tuesday.
Assistant coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe told two of Vincent’s female relatives during a hearing at Southwark Coroner’s Court: “I know you are having a dreadful time – I am releasing the body now.”
Video had earlier emerged online showing a man pulling floral tributes to Vincent down from fences.
A man who wished to remain anonymous said he drove from his home in north London to remove flowers laid in tribute to Vincent, after becoming “infuriated” by the story.
He said: “It was a residential area they were placing flowers on. [It was] inappropriate, and the guy deserves no tribute.”
Resident Theresa Webb, 43, said of the shrine: “It was inappropriate, poor taste really.
“You’re thinking ‘how long will it be up there?’ I’m relieved it’s down. There was 101 bouquets down there.”
Saverimuthu Augustine, 78, said he was “annoyed” that some flowers had been attached to fences around his house. He said: “I don’t appreciate it.
“If it’s a normal person it’s different, but he went and burgled a house – it could have been my house.”
Vincent’s alleged accomplice, Billy Jeeves, 28, is being sought over the failed burglary, Scotland Yard said.
His burnt-out Vauxhall Astra van was found on Saturday in St Mary Cray, near Orpington, south-east London.
Several police vehicles were parked outside Mr Osborn-Brooks’s house on Tuesday, though the pensioner was not there, and officers – some on horses – were seen on the street.
Mr Osborn-Brooks was arrested on suspicion of murder and released on bail, but was told on Friday that no action would be taken, the Metropolitan Police said.
The pensioner’s arrest provoked an outcry from neighbours and an online fundraising campaign has gathered thousands of pounds.
Officers were called to reports of a burglary in progress at 12.45am last Wednesday, after two men entered the house.
One suspect, armed with a screwdriver, forced the homeowner into his kitchen when he discovered them, while his accomplice went upstairs, the force said.
Detectives believe a struggle ensued between “one of the males and the homeowner” and the intruder was stabbed in the upper body. It is unclear what implement delivered the fatal blow.
Both men then apparently attempted a getaway, but Vincent collapsed in nearby Further Green Road.
In January, Vincent was named and pictured by Kent Police investigating a distraction burglary in which jewellery and valuables were stolen from a man in his 70s.