Violence breaks out at funeral to slain burglar

Flashes of violence have broken out at the funeral of a burglar who was fatally stabbed by an elderly homeowner.

The funeral of burglar Henry Vincent in London. Picture: SNWS

Dozens of officers descended on St Mary’s Church in south east London, where a service for 37-year-old Henry Vincent was held.

His body was carried in a silver Mercedes with a white floral arrangement spelling out “Daddy” next to the coffin.

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It was followed by a long convoy of vehicles, each with its own floral tribute on top, including a caravan and a boxing ring.

One mourner was seen sticking up two fingers at passers-by from the window of a funeral car as tensions repeatedly threatened to boil over.

Vincent died from a stab wound inflicted by Richard Osborn-Brooks, 78, whose home in Hither Green, south east London, he was burgling on April 4.

On Thursday afternoon, his funeral procession did several loops of St Mary Cray, with Vincent’s loved ones walking behind during the final approach to the church.

Spotting photographers ahead, mourners began yelling abuse and throwing missiles before several men broke away and gave chase.

One photographer was punched in the ensuing melee.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed a man believed to be in his teens was arrested on suspicion of assault at around 1.15pm.

He was released under investigation and told to report to a police station at a later date.

Officers had earlier warned the public and press to avoid the area.

A man passing along a road opposite the church claimed he had been hit by an egg in the moments before the procession went by.

He said he had been returning from a job interview and was struck on the leg by the egg.

With yolk still visible on his leg, the member of the public said he would be making a complaint to the police.

“I’m lucky I’m on the way back from a job interview, not to it,” he said.

He added: “I’m not having that.”

Flowers were tied with red ribbons to lampposts around the perimeter of the churchyard, reminiscent of tributes left by Vincent’s loved ones near the scene of his final crime in Hither Green.

Concern has been brewing that the intruder’s final send-off could descend into an ugly confrontation between the bereaved and supporters of Mr Osborn-Brooks.

A row had developed in the wake of the killing over a shrine set up in Vincent’s memory opposite the house, which was repeatedly desecrated.

Despite police reassurance that the funeral procession would not enter into Lewisham, one resident used his car to block the entrance to South Park Crescent in Hither Green on Thursday morning, near where Vincent was stabbed last month.

Another man, who would not say if he was local to the area, arrived with a portrait he had drawn of Vincent, and claimed police had told him he was on a “hit list” after removing flowers from the scene in the aftermath of the killing.

Holding the drawing aloft, Iain Gordon said: “This is a man that could’ve been a professional boxer. He could’ve had a good living from being a professional boxer. But he was taken on the road to crime.”

Mr Gordon said the outrage which followed the circumstances around Vincent’s death had shown a defiance in the community.

He said: “It’s good that there’s enough humanity within the general population that they’re willing to stand up and say, ‘We’ve had enough of this crime. We’re not going to tolerate it, people climbing into other people’s houses’.”

Police circled the area throughout the morning, and a van with a number of officers inside remained parked up in the residential area into the afternoon.

Mr Osborn-Brooks was initially arrested on suspicion of murder but was later released without charge.

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