The home-owner arrested on suspicion of murdering a suspected burglar at his home on Wednesday has been released without charge. Richard Osborn-Brooks was arrested on suspicion of murder after a struggle with two intruders he discovered in his home in Hither Green, south-east London, on Wednesday. One of the burglars, Henry Vincent, 37, from Kent and known to prey on the elderly, was fatally stabbed during a struggle in Mr Osborn-Brooks’s kitchen.
Originally released on bail, the Metropolitan police announced today that Mr Osborn-Brooks would face no further action.
Speaking about the incident, Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding of the Met said: “This is a tragic case for all of those involved. As expected with any incident where someone has lost their life, my officers carried out a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the death.”
Police said that they had been called to a reported burglary at about 00:45am when they found Mr Vincent bleeding in the street in nearby Further Green Road. A witness said an accomplice had tried dragging Mr Vincent towards a nearby van before abandoning him in the road. The second suspect fled the scene and is still being hunted by police.
Mr Osborn-Brooks was initially held on suspicion of murder but eventually released after a consultation between Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service. His arrest had provoked widespread condemnation from neighbours and in the media.
Det Ch Insp Harding said: “While there might be various forms of debate about which processes should be used in cases such as this, it was important that the resident was interviewed by officers under the appropriate legislation; not only for the integrity of our investigation but also so that his personal and legal rights were protected.”
Few people would question Mr Osborn-Brooks’s release, but it is right that he was arrested and questioned. Nobody has the right to kill another person other than in self-defence, and the police are obliged to investigate what happened with the same objectivity as they would investigate any other killing.
In this case it looks very much like a man who chose to prey on vulnerable and elderly people threatened the wrong person and came to a fitting end, but the media cannot be allowed or encouraged to short circuit the justice system by pressuring the police into taking hasty decisions. Legitimate self-defence and the execution of burglars are two very different things.