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Hither Green burglar stabbed by pensioner was lawfully killed, coroner rules

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

A burglar who was stabbed to death by an elderly homeowner was lawfully killed, a coroner has ruled.

Richard Osborn-Brooks warned burglar Henry Vincent his own knife was "bigger than yours" after the intruder and an accomplice clad in balaclavas burst into his home on April 4 last year.

The 79-year-old pensioner said Vincent "ran into" the blade during a raid at his property in Hither Green, south-east London, Southwark Coroner's Court heard.

The burglar, who had heroin and cocaine in his system, was armed with a screwdriver, but Mr Osborn-Brooks grabbed the largest kitchen knife from a six-knife holder.

Vincent's accomplice fled through the front door, but the 39-year-old went towards the pensioner with the screwdriver.

Henry Vincent was stabbed to death as he went to burgle Mr Osborn-Brooks' home. Credit: PA

He said: "Get out of my way or I'll stick you with this."

According to a police statement, Mr Osborn-Brooks, said: "You said 'I think you're wrong because mine's bigger than yours and if you don't leave my house you will be sorry'.

"I was just showing him that the knife I had was actually bigger than the screwdriver. So if he was to lunge at me he would hit my knife rather than hit me first."

Vincent's chest was pierced with a 12-inch kitchen knife by Mr Osborn-Brooks - the cause of death was an incised wound to the chest.

Senior coroner Andrew Harris recorded a verdict of lawful killing on Thursday.

Tributes and flowers to the career criminal were ripped down by locals. Credit: PA

He said: "In considering the force it would seem that given there is two intruders at night, one with a weapon, the use of moderate force would seem to me to reasonably be proportionate.

"It seems to me the combination of unpredictability and fear were factors that have to be taken into account considering the proportionality of the force that was used."

Mr Osborn-Brooks gave evidence via video-link and said the two men pushed him inside as he went to answer the door, during the early hours of April 4.

The homeowner had told Vincent "get out of my house you bastard or it will be the worse for you" as he attempted to protect his elderly wife Maureen, the inquest heard.

He said: "I thought he would look at my knife and see it is bigger than his implement and he would take the opportunity to run out the front door, which was open.

"My intention was to get him out of the house and away from my wife.

Friends and family left tributes outside the Hither Green home for Vincent. Credit: PA

"I still think that Mr Vincent rushes forward intending to do me harm and he ran into the knife that I was holding between us."

The pensioner was initially arrested on suspicion of murder but was released without charge.

The arrest triggered a public outcry and an online fundraising campaign in support of the pensioner subsequently raised thousands of pounds.

After the death, Vincent's friends and family sparked outrage among locals by laying flowers and cards opposite the then boarded-up house.

The tributes were repeatedly torn down by neighbours and well-wishers angry that the career criminal was being remembered in such a way.

Vincent's sister, Rosie, told the inquest: "My brother was not a violent person. He was a father, he was a son, he was a brother.

"No one deserves to die."