Pensioner ‘lawfully killed’ burglar Henry Vincent at his Hither Green home

A coroner has ruled a burglar fatally stabbed by a homeowner with a kitchen knife died in a ‘lawful killing’.

Henry Vincent, 37, died on the street after Richard Osborn-Brooks, then 78, stabbed him with a kitchen knife at his south East London home last year.

Southwark Coroners Court heard earlier today (Thurs) Mr Osborn-Brooks was woken in the early hours of April 4 by two men breaking into the 1920s terraced house in Hither Green.

He threatened the burglars with a kitchen knife and Vincent was stabbed as he escaped down the stairs and out of the front door.

Senior Coroner Andrew Harris had the power to make a ruling that there had been an unlawful killing in the case – which would send the case back to the police to investigate.

But he told the inquest he was ‘satisfied’ that there had not been an unlawful killing.

Mr Harris said: “I’m satisfied Mr Osborn-Brooks did pick up the knife deliberately and the reasons given was to tell the intruders to go away after the two had threatened his wife and asked for money and one had then gone to the cabinet upstairs to secure some valuables.

“The householder insists there was no intention to harm. He indicated surprise that he had actually stabbed the victim.

“He was a rational sensible man, he must have known the recognised risk of death of holding a sharp knife in the way he did.

“He had however no intention to use it. He would describe it as a reflexive action so death wasn’t in mind.

“He explained to officers in the way his arm went forward in a positive manner and he said that he had stabbed him although the man was coming forward.

“The use of moderate force would seem to me to be proportionate. He clearly didn’t know the gentleman who was in his house, it was hard to judge what to do.

“It seems to me the combination of unpredictability and fear in a stressful situation are factors that need to be taken into account when considering proportionality of the force that was used.”

Before his ruling the coroner said he could have made a narrative verdict or a verdict of lawful killing.

This point caused a brief outburst from Vincent’s mother, Rose Lee, when she was asked by the coroner if she had any submissions on this.

She told the coroner: “You have seen the video, police officers have seen the video and so have all these legal people here.

“All of them have listened to it. It’s there. You are in control and that’s the answer to your question, I can’t speak any more.

“Why did that gentleman not just stand back like a normal person would have done? But he didn’t. He didn’t stand back.

“How could he said he lunged at this gentleman when he is squashed against the wall and the stairs?”

Mr Osborn-Brooks was initially arrested on suspicion of murder but later released and told by police he would face no further action.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided he had acted in self-defence and was in fear for his and his wife’s safety, it was said.

Mr Harris recorded a short form verdict of lawful killing and a cause of death as an incised wound to the chest.

He said: “The household owner stabbed Mr Vincent in his own home on April 4 2018 just after midnight, after he and another intruder had threatened him in an attempted burglary.

“Mr Vincent collapsed in the street not far away and despite resuscitation at the scene he was certified dead in the A&E department.

“The interaction that led to a stabbing was the simultaneous approach of the deceased with a small screwdriver and the forward movement of the householder with a kitchen knife, leading to moderate force being applied by the knife to Mr Vincent’s chest and its penetration.

“The household owner was terrified and asserted he acted in self-defence after an assault by the other intruder.”

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