Friends and relatives of a burglar stabbed to death during a botched raid on a pensioner’s home have laid tributes close to the scene to mark the dead man’s 38th birthday.
Around 20 women from the travelling community arrived at South Park Crescent in Hither Green to lay flowers near the spot where Henry Vincent, 37, fell after being fatally injured in the home of 78-year-old Richard Osborn-Brooks.
Osborn-Brooks was arrested on suspicion of murder following the death of Vincent on April 4 but was later told he would face no further action.
Since the incident, Vincent’s friends and family have sparked outrage among locals in the usually quiet south London neighbourhood by laying flowers and cards opposite the still boarded-up home of Osborn-Brooks and his wife Maureen.
The tributes have repeatedly been torn down by neighbours and well-wishers angry that the career criminal is being remembered in such a way, only to spring up again within days.
On Sunday afternoon, a group of around 20 women who said they were relatives of Vincent, arrived in the street with flowers, cards, balloons and a banner to celebrate his birthday.
They were escorted by five police officers who tried to stop them stapling the banners and balloons to the garden fences of homeowners.
Eventually the tributes were attached to the street sign itself and a lamppost.
A 37-year-old woman, who didn’t want to be named, said: “We’re here because it’s his birthday, we just want to lay flowers. We don’t want to cause any violence.”
She added: “We’re not all criminals. We don’t all do wrong.”
When asked how Vincent should be remembered, another woman said: “We all loved him.”
The group refused to respond to reports that Vincent would be honoured with a £100,000 funeral, or that the cortege would pass by Osborn-Brooks’ home.
The Osborn-Brooks’ are reportedly living in a safe house and plan to sell their property.
Last week, Scotland Yard prompted outrage after saying that while it was “aware of the concerns” raised by residents over the shrine, it called on them to “respect the wishes” of those who choose to pay their respects in public.
Comedian John Bishop on Thursday added his voice to a growing chorus of frustration over authorities allowing the tit-for-tat struggle to spiral into a daily spectacle attracting crowds of photographers.
Bishop said police’s advice to residents was “a disgrace”, given Vincent had spent his life “preying on pensioners”. The 37-year-old was already wanted for another burglary at the time of his death.
His comments came a day after a YouGov poll found 82% of respondents thought the tributes were not appropriate.