Richard Osborn-Brooks has been released without charge (Facebook)
Richard Osborn-Brooks has been released without charge (Facebook)

Pensioner arrested for fatal stabbing of burglar

A pensioner arrested on suspicion of murder after a suspected burglar was stabbed to death at his house has been released without charge.

Police said Richard Osborn-Brooks, 78, will face no further action over the death of an intruder at his home in Hither Green, South-east London, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Henry Vincent, 37, died after allegedly forcing his way into the pensioner's home with an accomplice. One of the men was armed with a screwdriver and is said to have threatened Mr Osborn-Brooks.

The Metropolitan Police said it considered advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) before freeing the pensioner without charge.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding, of the force's murder squad, said: "This is a tragic case for all of those involved. As expected with any incident where someone has lost their life, my officers carried out a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the death.

"We have approached the CPS for early investigative advice, as required under the guidance. We have received and considered that advice, and at present - on the evidence available - we will not seek a charging decision. Therefore, no further action will be taken against the man."

Burglary suspect Henry Vincent was killed during an alleged break-in (Kent Police)
Burglary suspect Henry Vincent was killed during an alleged break-in (Kent Police)

Officers have informed Henry Vincent's family of the decision and explained how it was reached, police said.

Vincent was found slumped on the street with stab wounds to his upper body after police were called to a reported burglary at Mr Osborn-Brooks's house at 12.45am.

A witness said Vincent's alleged accomplice dragged him away towards a white van before leaving him for dead, "groaning" and "bleeding heavily from his chest through his shirt".

It later emerged Vincent had been under investigation over a burglary at the home of another elderly victim.

Mr Osborn-Brooks suffered bruising during the break-in at his house where he lives with his wife who has dementia.

He was taken into custody on suspicion of murder on Wednesday and bailed the next day. His arrest prompted an outcry among neighbours and sparked a debate about crime victims' rights to defend themselves.

"They were indoors minding their own business and their world has been turned upside down," said one elderly neighbour. 

Addressing the controversy, Mr Harding said: "Whilst there might be various forms of debate about which processes should be used in cases such as this, it was important that the resident was interviewed by officers under the appropriate legislation of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act; not only for the integrity of our investigation but also so that his personal and legal rights were protected.

"There will be an inquest in due course which will further review the circumstances into Mr Vincent's death in a public forum.

"Our thoughts remain with the families whose lives have been devastated by these events."

Family and friends have paid tribute to Henry Vincent, who was from Kent.

"I don't know what happened in that home. But all I do know is that my cousin is dead today," a female family member told the BBC.

"The Henry I know, he was such a loving person, and it's probably something which just went wrong but he shouldn't have died out of it." 

His death bore similarities to the killing of 16-year-old burglar Fred Barras, who was shot dead by Norfolk farmer Tony Martin in 1999.

The farmer was jailed for murder after firing a shotgun three times at the teenager and his accomplice, who was also injured. The conviction was reduced to manslaughter on appeal and he was released from prison after three years.

After Mr Osborn-Brooks's arrest, the government reiterated that people have the right to defend themselves if they believe they or their families are in danger.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "While we cannot comment on specific cases, our sympathies are with householders who have to defend themselves when intruders break in.

"That's why we strengthened the law in 2013 to give householders greater protection from intruders.

"Those changes make it clear that if a householder believes their life or the lives of their family are in danger, and they act in self-defence, they would not ordinarily be convicted of an offence."

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