Police chief warns people tearing down shrine to burglar could be arrested

Craig Mackey said the intruder’s death was a “tragedy” for his family but warned they should respect Hither Green residents. (PA)

A senior police officer has said anyone trying to remove flowers from a shrine to a burglar killed by a pensioner could be arrested.

Supporters of Richard Osborn-Brooks – who was arrested on suspicion of murdering 37-year-old Henry Vincent while defending his home last week before being released without charge – have removed scores of floral bouquets and balloons placed outside the 78-year-old’s home in south-east London.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Sir Craig Mackey said the intruder’s death was a “tragedy” for his family but warned they should respect Hither Green residents after shrines for him were repeatedly taken down.

However, talking to LBC radio, Sir Craig also warned that vigilantes who tear down the shrine could be arrested.

He said: ‘It’s in everyone’s interest – and particularly the local community – that we bring their community back to whatever normal is as quickly as possible.’

‘If you do things where you cause a breach of the peace, disorder in that area, then like anyone, you could end up getting arrested’.

His comments come after Chief Superintendent Simon Dobinson said he was “aware of the concerns that have been raised by residents regarding the floral tributes placed in Hither Green” but said residents should “respect the wishes” of those who choose to pay their respects in public.

Flowers and balloons had been left tied to a fence near  Richard Osborn-Brooks’ house in memory of suspected burglar Henry Vincent. (Facebook)

He said: “My officers are not there to safeguard or facilitate the laying of floral tributes. I do not want anyone to feel intimidated or that they are not being allowed to respond in a dignified way to a tragic death.

“We would urge members of the public to respect the wishes of those who choose to place flowers and other tributes in the area.

Locals have condemned the police response.

Mounted police were called in after friends and supporters of Mr Osborn-Brooks objected to the tributes placed outside the 78-year-old’s south-east London home. 

The pensioner was arrested on suspicion of murdering 37-year-old Vincent while defending his home last week.

Nearly 200 people have joined a Facebook group called Community ‘Support for the Residents of South Park Crescent, Hither Green’ in the wake of a burglar’s death.

A total of 177 people have joined the group, which is described on the page as: “For those wanting to show support for the residents of South Park Crescent with the recent events relating to Mr Osborn-Brooks whose life has been turned upside-down.”

Comedian John Bishop also weighed in on the argument, calling the tributes a ‘disgrace’. 

Posts on Downham Community Info Facebook page attempted to organise a protest against the shrine last night, but no local residents turned up.

Sir Craig said Lewisham Council was considering what to do with the tributes, which included cards and a teddy bear.

He said: “This is a tragedy for the family who have lost a loved one.

The Met Police said: ‘It would have been preferable if the pavement had remained clear’. (PA)

“It is also a tragedy for the homeowner forced to take the action he did. I am pleased we got the quickest possible decision for him in relation to his actions.

“It would have been preferable if the pavement had remained clear and the local area had not become the focus of disruption which then needed police resources to manage.

“The local authority are considering how the flowers and items are managed and we are inputting to that. As the situation stands, that is how this has to be dealt with as laying flowers is not a crime.

“We want those laying flowers to respect the local people and the impact on them. Those opposed to the flowers should act responsibly, respectfully and reasonably. As the borough commander said yesterday we don’t want anyone – the local people or those visiting the scene – to feel intimidated.

Henry Vincent was  armed with a screwdriver when he broke in. (PA)

No arrests have been made in connection with the tributes, the Met said.

He added that officers continued to appeal to the public to help trace another man, Billy Jeeves, in connection with the burglary.

On Wednesday, Iain Gordon, who said he was part of the Fair Society group, pulled down the flowers laid by Vincent’s family.

The incident follows one on Tuesday evening when a hooded man ripped down half of the flowers.