Pensioner who stabbed burglar had warned him ‘my knife’s bigger than yours’

A pensioner who stabbed an intruder to death had warned him his own knife was “bigger than yours and if you don’t leave my house you will be sorry”, an inquest has heard.

Richard Osborn-Brooks, 79,  told the hearing burglar Henry Vincent ignored his warning and instead “ran into” the blade.

Vincent entered the house with an accomplice in the early hours of April 4 last year, Southwark Coroner’s Court heard.

Hither Green inquest
The home of Richard Osborn-Brooks (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The 37-year-old, who had cocaine and heroin in his system, was armed with a screwdriver during the raid on South Park Crescent in Hither Green, south east London.

Mr Osborn-Brooks, who gave evidence on Thursday via an audio link, said two men had knocked on his door, grabbed him and pushed him inside, with one shoving him toward the kitchen and the other running upstairs as they both demanded money.

Mr Osborn-Brooks said after he picked up the largest kitchen knife from a six-knife holder, Vincent’s accomplice fled through the front door.

He told the hearing Vincent then came down the stairs brandishing a screwdriver and said: “Get out of my way or I’ll stick you with this.”

Coroner Andrew Harris, reading Mr Osborn-Brooks’s police statement to him, 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’.”

Mr Osborn-Brooks said: “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.

“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.

“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.

“He definitely didn’t try to get out of the front door, he came towards me.”

Hither Green inquest
Forensic officers at the scene (Garether Fuller/PA)

The coroner went on to question Mr Osborn-Brooks about what he had told police officers after the incident. The officers had filmed his account on a body-mounted camera.

Mr Harris said: “Body-cam footage shows you thrusting your arm forward in explaining what happened.

“That would mean there is a combination of his running toward you and your putting your arm forward. It’s not a simple matter of just falling on a knife with your arm being stationary.”

Mr Osborn-Brooks replied: “I don’t accept that I moved my arm forward because I was still stuck up against the wall. I was petrified.”

Mr Osborn-Brooks was initially arrested on suspicion of murder, but was told by police he would face no further action.

His arrest sparked a public outcry and an online fundraising campaign in support of him raised thousands of pounds.

Pathologist Simon Poole, who carried out the postmortem on Vincent, said in a statement the toxicology report indicated “a recent use of both cocaine and heroin”.

He added Vincent “may have been experiencing the effects” of the drugs at the time of the raid.

Hither Green incident
Floral tributes were torn from a fence (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The usually quiet south London neighbourhood became a flashpoint when friends and family of Vincent laid flowers and cards opposite the home of Mr Osborn-Brooks and his wife Maureen.

The tributes were repeatedly torn down by neighbours and well-wishers angry at the shrine to career criminal Vincent – only to reappear again within hours or days.

Vincent, from Lime Road in Swanley, Kent, was jobless and single at the time.

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