The pensioner arrested on suspicion of murder after confronting a burglar had previously donated cash towards measures to reduce burglary in his street, a councillor has said.
Richard Osborn-Brooks, 78. was a donor for a scheme to build security gates in the area in a bid to slash crime rates in his local area – that had a Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
The gate which Mr Osborn-Brooks contributed towards is just a few yards from his house, which was targeted by the armed burglars in the early hours of Wednesday.
The pensioner has been bailed until May pending further enquiries.
Councillor Mark Ingleby said gates were built to secure a network of private alleyways in the area in Hither Green, south east London, which were also a hotbed for crime including drug dealing.
He said: ‘He was one of the people that donated towards it. People donate between £20, £50 or even £150 or more.’
The scheme was launched in 2014 as a crackdown on crime in the area.
Mr Ingleby, ward councillor for Whitefoot, added: ‘Mr Osborn-Brooks was a prompt payer – I don’t remember having to chase him for money.
‘The fact that he contributed, like all the other residents who did, shows they were doing something about security in the area.
‘It’s sad for this area, we have worked so hard.’
Neighbours of Mr Osborn-Brooks defended his actions, saying he should not be punished for simply protecting himself.
One said the pensioner ‘deserves a medal’.
Officers were called to reports of a burglary in progress after two men entered a house in South Park Crescent in Hither Green, south-east London, the Metropolitan Police said.
One suspect, thought to have been armed with a screwdriver, forced the 78-year-old homeowner into his kitchen when he discovered them, while his accomplice went upstairs, police said.
Detectives believe a struggle ensued between ‘one of the males and the homeowner’ and the intruder was stabbed in the upper body but they refused to confirm whether the suspect had been stabbed with the screwdriver.
A witness, who lives in the road, said he saw an accomplice try to rescue the suspect just before midnight before fleeing the scene.
He recalled seeing a white Vauxhall Astra van pull up next to a man “moaning and groaning” on the street who was “bleeding heavily from his chest through his shirt”.
Its driver attempted to drag the man into the vehicle before driving off north when he noticed he was being watched, he said.
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The witness told the Press Association: “People have been talking about a screwdriver but this wasn’t a screwdriver wound, this was a knife. The wound was an inch long.
“I think that it was a knife and I think from what my partner said that the black guy (the driver) pulled it out and threw it away.
He was later found collapsed in nearby Further Green Road by paramedics from London Ambulance Service, who took him to a central London hospital where he died at 3.37am.
The second suspect fled the scene and has yet to be found.
Friends and neighbours have now rallied around Mr Osborn Brooks, saying he should not be punished for protecting himself and his home.
Adam Lake, who lives near the scene, said: ‘He doesn’t deserve to be punished for defending himself, and the neighbours that I’ve spoken to all agree that the priority needs to be to support him after everything that he’s been through.
‘He was just protecting himself after all.’
Another neighbour, who asked not to be named, supported his right to defend the neighbourhood.
The 12-year resident of South Park Crescent said she recognised his face but did not know him.
She continued: “He deserves a medal. You cannot break into people’s houses.
“(I’ve heard) he’s a carer, this is a pensioner that has worked all his life who wants to live and die quietly.
“I lived in America, if this was in America this wouldn’t be a big issue.”
Tony Guest, 61, who used to work with Mr Osborn-Brooks, posted on Facebook: ‘So a 78-year-old man gets burgled by two men.
‘There is a scuffle and the old man has slight injuries but managed to stab one of the burglars and he shortly died.
‘The other burglar is on the run but the 78-year-old is arrested for murder.
‘So this is British justice is it? Where is our protection?
‘The old man deserves a medal and to be let free. I really can’t believe this has happened to him. I am in total shock.’
The pensioner, who suffered bruising to his arms, was initially arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm but has been further arrested on suspicion of murder, the Met said.
He remains in custody at a south London police station.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding said: ‘I would like to speak with anyone who has information regarding the outstanding suspect from the burglary, who is believed to be a white male; he may have told someone what happened at the address.
‘It is possible that he fled the scene in a vehicle, possibly a white van, leaving the scene in the direction of Further Green Road. Did you see this vehicle? Do you know where it went after this? I ask anyone to contact our incident room as soon as possible.’
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.