Missiles thrown during funeral procession for burglar stabbed by pensioner during break-in
Missiles have been thrown during the funeral procession for a criminal who was stabbed while burgling a pensioner’s home.
Tensions in the Hither Green area of south-east London have been high since 37-year-old Henry Vincent died a month ago, and his funeral was marked by a heavy police presence over fears of potential clashes.
His coffin was carried in a silver Mercedes with a floral arrangement spelling out “daddy”, followed by a long convoy of vehicles carrying flowers, including a caravan and a boxing ring.
As mourners approached a group of press photographers on the route, several stuck up their middle fingers and others shouted abuse and threw a bottle.
Later, a group walking on foot alongside the procession were accused of throwing rocks and eggs at bystanders.
One man, who did not want to be named, said he was hit by an egg as the cars looped around the area and would be making a complaint to the police, adding: “I'm lucky I'm on the way back from a job interview, not to it.“
Police warned members of the public and journalists to leave the area around where Mr Vincent’s funeral was being held at St Mary's Church in St Mary Cray.
A teenager was arrested on suspicion of assault near the churchyard.
“He has been released under investigation to report to a police station at a later date,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said.
There had been concerns that tensions over Mr Vincent’s death, in a violent struggle with Richard Osborn-Brooks, and a bitter row over floral tributes could boil over.
Police had previously claimed the funeral procession would not directly pass the 78-year-old’s house in South Park Crescent or enter the borough of Lewisham.
One local resident used his car to block the entrance to the residential road on Thursday morning, and another man claimed police warned him he had been named on a “hit list” after removing floral tributes to Mr Vincent.
Iain Gordon said the community would not tolerate “people climbing into other people's houses”.
"It's good that there's enough humanity within the general population that they're willing to stand up and say 'we've had enough of this crime',” he added. “We're not going to tolerate it.”
Scotland Yard, Kent Police and local councils mounted a plan to prevent potential disorder and minimise traffic disruption, with police patrolling the area and a van of officers parked nearby through the day.
“To provide community reassurance, there will be high-visibility patrols in the Hither Green and South Park Crescent area on the day of the funeral,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police had said.
Mr Osborn-Brooks and his wife are understood to be living in a safe house under police protection over fears of reprisals from the career criminal’s family and his friends in the traveller community.
Flowers and tributes that piled up opposite the house, including from Mr Vincent’s daughters, have repeatedly been torn down, in one instances being stamped on by a man carrying a sign reading: “Stick your flowers where the sun don’t shine.”
Senior Metropolitan Police officers were forced to intervene in the dispute, saying they did not want “anyone to feel intimidated or that they are not being allowed to respond in a dignified way to a tragic death”.
Deputy Commissioner Sir Craig Mackey said: “This is a tragedy for the family who have lost a loved one. It is also a tragedy for the homeowner forced to take the action he did.”
Mr Osborn-Brooks was initially arrested on suspicion of murder, causing outrage from supporters who said he had the right to defend his home, but he was later released without charge.
An online fundraising campaign launched to cover any potential legal costs subsequently raised thousands of pounds.
Detectives said Mr Vincent threatened the pensioner with a screwdriver after he and an accomplice were disturbed shortly after midnight on 4 April.
The burglar was found collapsed in nearby Further Green Road with a stab wound and was later pronounced dead in hospital, while Mr Osborn-Brooks suffered injuries to his arms.
His suspected accomplice, 28-year-old Billy Jeeves, was later arrested on suspicion of aggravated burglary, theft and possession of a controlled substance in Kent.
The pair were the subject of a wanted notice released by police in January over a distraction burglary in Farningham.
Mr Vincent and Mr Jeeves’ pictures and names were put out after jewellery and valuables were stolen from an elderly man.
He had opened his door to a woman who claimed to have been assaulted and be seeking refuge, until a white Ford Transit van – which had been stolen the previous day – picked her up.
Mr Vincent is believed to have served several years in prison after being among several family members jailed for 29 years at Croydon Crown Court in 2003 for conning vulnerable pensioners across London and Kent of almost £500,000.
Mr Vincent and his father were jailed again in 2011 for taking £72,000 from an 81-year-old man for unnecessary building work.
Independent News Service