Hither Green burglar death flowers ‘an insult’

Friends and family of Henry Vincent tie tributes to a fence
Image caption Friends and family of Henry Vincent returned to tie floral tributes to the fence on Tuesday

The family of a suspected burglar who was stabbed to death have reattached tributes that were torn down.

Flowers and balloons for Henry Vincent, 37, had been tied to a fence opposite a home in Hither Green, south-east London, where he was killed last week.

However, overnight the majority of the items were taken down and left on the pavement.

Three women arrived and re-fastened 20 bouquets and balloons to the same fence on Tuesday afternoon.

Elvina Lee, who said she was Mr Vincent’s first cousin, said it was “the best place for these flowers to be”.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with these people [who took them down],” she added.

“He wasn’t a murderer, he wasn’t a rapist, they’re putting [sic] him as a monster.”

Image copyrightPA
Image caption Floral tributes to Henry Vincent were taken off the fence and left on the ground

Homeowner Richard Osborn-Brooks, 78, was initially held on suspicion of murder, but released with no further action.

The Met Police said it had not taken down any of the tributes from the fence opposite Mr Osborn-Brooks’s house.

A man indentifying himself as Cecil Coley said he removed the flowers after becoming “infuriated” by the tributes.

He said: “It was a residential area they were placing flowers on. It was inappropriate, and the guy deserves no tribute.”

He called the flowers “an insult” to Mr Osborn-Brooks.

Cecil Coley is also the name of a 72-year-old florist who was arrested on suspicion of murder after he stabbed an armed intruder to death in 2011. He was later released without charge.

Saverimuthu Augustine, 78, said some of the tributes had been attached to his property.

He said: “I am annoyed they put them on my fence. I do not appreciate it.

“If it is a normal person it is different – it could have been my house [that was burgled].”

Image copyrightKent Police/PA Wire
Image caption Henry Vincent was under investigation over a separate burglary involving an elderly victim

The only tribute that had been left on the fence next to a teddy bear was a note from Mr Vincent’s children.

Mr Vincent’s cousin Phoebe Smith, 34, said whoever had torn down the flowers “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.

Image caption One resident fears the actions to tear down the tributes could “cause a rumpus”

A 33-year-old neighbour, who did not want to be named, told the BBC he felt “intimidated”.

“I think that it’s really sad that someone’s died and I think it’s not their fault that he’s died and it’s up to them to grieve for him however they want to do it.

“It is quite stark and you can’t help but feel it looks a bit confrontational.

“It’s a massive, massive display right in front of the house. If the family want to lay flowers that’s fine but it feels weird.

“It feels a bit aggressive to be honest.”

At the scene: Hamish Mackay, BBC news online

Image copyrightPA
Image caption The tributes are on a fence opposite Richard Osborn-Brooks’s home which has been partially boarded up

Many residents in Hither Green have interpreted the large tribute to Mr Vincent as an aggressive act.

One neighbour said they saw a car circling the block while the tribute was being erected, which they believe was an attempt to intimidate locals.

If intimidation was the aim, it appears to have worked. Most neighbours are reluctant to talk publicly, for fear of being drawn into a dispute that may not be over.

While those living on South Park Crescent have all been quick to offer condolences to Mr Vincent, they argue his is not the only life that has been ruined.

Mr Osborn-Brooks and his family have not returned to their house since the burglary and their windows have now been boarded up for fear of reprisals.

Another neighbour, Theresa Webb, described the tributes as “inappropriate” and of “poor taste”.

“But I can’t say what a mother’s or a family’s grief is,” she said.

Speaking about Mr Osborn-Brooks, she added: “One minute he is in his house and the next his life is turned upside down.

“Everyone around here sends their best wishes to him.”

Image caption Richard Osborn-Brooks was held on suspicion of murder, but released with no further action

Police had been called to Mr Osborn-Brooks’s property at about 00:45 BST on 4 April over reports of a burglary when they found Mr Vincent collapsed in nearby Further Green Road.

A witness said an accomplice dragged Mr Vincent toward a van before leaving him for dead.

On Monday, the Met Police said 28-year-old Billy Jeeves was wanted in connection with the burglary.

Image caption Emotional messages from Henry Vincent’s children were the only tributes left on the fence

Mr Jeeves’s white Vauxhall Astra van was found burnt out and destroyed in Star Lane in Orpington, Kent, on Saturday evening.

Detectives want to hear from anybody who may have seen the van – with the registration GU52 AXT – in the days and hours before and after the burglary.

In January, Mr Jeeves and Mr Vincent were named and pictured by Kent Police in connection with an investigation into a distraction burglary on a man in his 70s.

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