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Police warn dead burglar’s family to respect Hither Green residents

Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Sir Craig Mackey said it would have been ‘preferable if the pavement had remained clear’.

A senior police chief has said he would have preferred grieving loved ones of burglar Henry Vincent not to have laid flowers which forced his officers to step in to soothe community tensions.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Sir Craig Mackey said the intruder’s death was a “tragedy” for his family but warned they should respect Hither Green residents after shrines for him were repeatedly taken down.

Mounted police were called in after friends and supporters of Richard Osborn-Brooks objected to the tributes and removed scores of floral bouquets and balloons placed outside the 78-year-old’s south-east London home.

The pensioner was arrested on suspicion of murdering 37-year-old Vincent while defending his home last week, before being released without charge.

Sir Craig said Lewisham Council was considering what to do with the tributes, which included cards and a teddy bear.

He said: “This is a tragedy for the family who have lost a loved one.

“It is also a tragedy for the homeowner forced to take the action he did. I am pleased we got the quickest possible decision for him in relation to his actions.

“It would have been preferable if the pavement had remained clear and the local area had not become the focus of disruption which then needed police resources to manage.

“The local authority are considering how the flowers and items are managed and we are inputting to that. As the situation stands, that is how this has to be dealt with as laying flowers is not a crime.

“We want those laying flowers to respect the local people and the impact on them. Those opposed to the flowers should act responsibly, respectfully and reasonably. As the borough commander said yesterday we don’t want anyone – the local people or those vising the scene – to feel intimidated.

“We will continue to work with the local authority so the disruption stops and the area can get back to normal as soon as possible.”

No arrests have been made in connection with the tributes, the Met said.

He added that officers continued to appeal to the public to help trace another man, Billy Jeeves, in connection with the burglary.

Stephen Langley-Hart, 72, a former resident of the street, said: “They have the right to grieve even given the circumstances but it could be done in a better way. It’s really not terribly nice to have this thing opposite the house. It is a provocation.

“The police really have much better things to do than guard a flower display. They should be doing other things but I hope it’s not going to escalate. I really hope they’re not going to come back.

“It’s tragic. A man aged 37 with children, it’s terribly sad but he shouldn’t have been doing what he was doing.”

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The flowers before they were removed (Gareth Fuller/PA)

On Wednesday, Iain Gordon, who said he was part of the Fair Society group, pulled down the flowers laid by Vincent’s family.

The incident follows one on Tuesday evening when a hooded man ripped down half of the flowers.

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