Residents block off street as mourners gather for burglar’s funeral
Police said Henry Vincent’s hearse is not expected to pass the scene of his death in Hither Green.
Family and friends of Henry Vincent, the burglar fatally stabbed by an elderly home-owner, are gathering for a tightly policed funeral service.
The 37-year-old died following a struggle with Richard Osborn-Brooks, whose home he invaded in the early hours of April 4.
The service is to be held at St Mary’s Church in St Mary Cray, south-east London, a police officer at the scene confirmed.
A marked van filled with officers drove past the Church of England building several times, before passing up nearby Star Lane, site of St Mary Cray Cemetery.
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, south-east London.
Concern has been mounting that the intruder’s final send-off could descend into an ugly confrontation between the bereaved and supporters of Mr Osborn-Brooks.
In the wake of the killing, a bitter row developed over the shrine set up to Vincent’s memory opposite the house – and was repeatedly desecrated.
Scotland Yard confirmed patrols would be stepped up around South Park Crescent in Hither Green, but added that the funeral cortege was not expected to pass the scene.
Nevertheless, on Thursday morning, neighbours of 78-year-old Mr Osborn-Brooks made an apparent effort to block off the road to vehicles.
One resident, who gave his name only as Dave, parked his car at the end of South Park Crescent and said: “I think it’s a disgrace that they want to bring the funeral past after all the flower debacle. It’s just not on.”
The 57-year-old said he had decided to park up despite police guidance that the funeral procession is not due to enter Lewisham.
He said: “There is the possibility that they might bring the body down in a hearse first and do a pass-by and then go back and have the actual funeral (elsewhere).”
Police have stepped up patrols in the area, but Dave said he will remain parked at the end of the road unless a police vehicle replaces him.
The Metropolitan Police said the decision to send officers to the south-east London street was for “community reassurance” after reports that Vincent’s loved ones would march through the area in an act of defiance.
Police believe a large number of people may attend but it is not thought the funeral procession will enter the borough.
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.