The family of a burglar who was killed during a botched raid in a quiet London suburb have asked that flowers be left alone to die after tributes were torn down on Tuesday.
A woman claiming to be the aunt of intruder Henry Vincent said the family will “never come back” if the bouquets, which have been pinned to the wall opposite Richard Osborn-Brooks’ home, are left alone.
There was a growing sense of unease in Hither Green on Tuesday as burst balloons, soiled cards and discarded flowers lined the pavement of South Park Crescent.
Pensioner Osborn-Brooks is alleged to have killed Vincent while defending his home in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The 78-year-old was arrested on suspicion of murder, before being bailed and released with no further action.
Family and friends of Vincent, 37, had erected a shrine opposite the pensioner’s home on Monday – but within hours it had been torn down.
By Tuesday afternoon, a group of women believed to be related to the dead man visited the scene to reattach the bouquets to the fence they had originally been tied to.
Elvina Lee, who said she was Vincent’s first cousin, called whoever pulled the tributes down “scum” and labelled 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.”
Moments later, an unidentified man arrived on the scene to tear them down once more, describing them as an “insult” to Osborn-Brooks.
Later on Tuesday afternoon a woman, who said she was Vincent’s aunt, said: “If people leave the flowers alone within a week they’ll die, we will come here, clean this road, and go and never come back.
“All we want is them just left until the flowers die and we will take them away.”
Both the woman, who did not give her name, and Lee said it was not disrespectful to erect the shrine opposite Osborn-Brooks’ home.
Asked if she had a message for Billy Jeeves, Vincent’s alleged accomplice, Lee said: “Love him.”
One neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous and said local residents are wary of speaking to the press, told HuffPost UK: “The tributes are very insensitive. Those men targeted some of the most vulnerable people in our street. Now for people to come and show flowers, they’re essentially saying he was a good man. It’s not the right place.
“They should do it at a funeral, or in their own home. And such a big display rather seems like it’s arranged to intimidate the people who live here.”
Danny Slater, 44, said the pensioner should never have been arrested. “He was protecting his property and I don’t know about you but I’d use any force necessary. So the man died, he died. That’s his hard luck.
“Leaving bunches of flowers at the scene is pretty insensitive.”
However others expressed sympathy for Vincent. A resident who asked to remain anonymous, said: “It’s a little bit in your face to leave flowers there. I understand why they want to pay tribute – but this is not the place.”
Nikita Hill, 39, who lives nearby, agreed: “I don’t think they should have put it outside his home. Maybe they could have done it further away. But he’s got loved ones and family too so I understand why they did it.”
An online fundraising campaign to support the pensioner has raised more than £8,000. The organiser wrote: “If he isn’t charged he can use this money to help secure his home so they can feel safe and maybe to treat himself and his wife to something nice so they know the community is behind them. We support you Richard! #ReleaseRichard”
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.
She added of Osborn-Brooks: “One minute he’s in his house and the next his life’s turned upside down. Everyone around here sends their best wishes to him.”
A man who said he had lived on the street for more than 30 years said he had installed new locks on his house since the raid.
He said the tributes should have been left alone, adding: “I’m worried these people might come back and cause a rumpus. We lock the door during the day now, we never used to.
“If they do come I’ll just stay inside, simple as that.”
In January, Vincent was named and pictured by Kent Police investigating a distraction burglary when jewellery and valuables were stolen from a man in his 70s.
The Met confirmed a second suspect in the Hither Green burglary fled the scene prior to the police arriving and remained at large.