Memorial to Hither Green burglar repeatedly desecrated

A row over the memorial to burglar Henry Vincent has continued to deepen as tributes were torn down for a second time.

Relatives of the 37-year-old restored a desecrated shrine near the scene of his final raid, only for it to be wrecked within minutes.

A fence opposite the home of Richard Osborn-Brooks, 78, has become an unlikely flashpoint of tensions between the grieving family and his neighbours since last week's incident.

The tributes were swiftly removed (Thomas Hornall/PA)
The tributes were swiftly removed (Thomas Hornall/PA)

Balloons, cards and flowers were removed by supporters of the pensioner, with whom Vincent was involved in a struggle when he broke into the south-east London address on April 4.

On Tuesday afternoon, his loved ones returned to reattach the mementos opposite the property on South Park Crescent, Hither Green.

The memorial was mended on Tuesday afternoon (Thomas Hornall/PA)
The memorial was mended on Tuesday afternoon (Thomas Hornall/PA)

Elvina Lee, who said she was Vincent's first cousin, called whoever pulled the tributes down "scum" and labelled Mr Osborn-Brooks a "lowlife".

She said: "This is the best place for these flowers to be. I don't know what's wrong with these people (who dismantled them)... I think they're scum."

Regarding Vincent she said: "He was like a brother to me, he loved his family and his three babies. He wasn't a murderer, he wasn't a rapist, they're putting (sic) him as a monster."

The group then drove away in a car which had blown out its tyre when it first pulled up on the road.

But the whole memorial was down again within 20 minutes, removed by a man who said he was "taking these shit flowers down" calling it an "insult" to Mr Osborn-Brooks.

The man, who wore a beanie hat and did not give his name, added: "These need burning."

The dispute came as a coroner returned the body of the burglar back to his family during an inquest opening on Tuesday.

Assistant coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe told two of Vincent's female relatives during a hearing at Southwark Coroner's Court: "I know you are having a dreadful time - I am releasing the body now."

Video had earlier emerged online showing a man pulling floral tributes to Vincent down from fences.

A man who wished to remain anonymous said he drove from his home in north London to remove flowers laid in tribute to Vincent, after becoming "infuriated" by the story.

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

Hither Green incident
Hither Green incident

Resident Theresa Webb, 43, said of the shrine: "It was inappropriate, poor taste really.

"You're thinking 'how long will it be up there?' I'm relieved it's down. There was 101 bouquets down there."

Saverimuthu Augustine, 78, said he was "annoyed" that some flowers had been attached to fences around his house.

He said: "I don't appreciate it.

"If it's a normal person it's different, but he went and burgled a house - it could have been my house."

Hither Green incident
Hither Green incident

Vincent's alleged accomplice, Billy Jeeves, 28, is being sought over the failed burglary, Scotland Yard said.

His burnt-out Vauxhall Astra van was found on Saturday in St Mary Cray, near Orpington, south-east London.

Several police vehicles were parked outside Mr Osborn-Brooks's house on Tuesday, though the pensioner was not there.

Mr Osborn-Brooks was arrested on suspicion of murder and released on bail, but was told on Friday that no action would be taken, the Metropolitan Police said.

The pensioner's arrest provoked an outcry from neighbours and an online fundraising campaign has gathered thousands of pounds.

Hither Green incident
Hither Green incident

Officers were called to reports of a burglary in progress at 12.45am last Wednesday, after two men entered the house.

One suspect, armed with a screwdriver, forced the homeowner into his kitchen when he discovered them, while his accomplice went upstairs, the force said.

Detectives believe a struggle ensued between "one of the males and the homeowner" and the intruder was stabbed in the upper body. It is unclear what implement delivered the fatal blow.

Both men then apparently attempted a getaway, but Vincent collapsed in nearby Further Green Road.

In January, Vincent was named and pictured by Kent Police investigating a distraction burglary in which jewellery and valuables were stolen from a man in his 70s.