SEN­TENCED TO A LIFE IN HID­ING

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Arthur Martin and Jemma Buck­ley

A PEN­SIONER was yes­ter­day judged to have ‘law­fully killed’ a bur­glar, but has been con­demned to look­ing over his shoul­der for the rest of his life.

Richard Os­born-Brooks, 79, used ‘ pro­por­tion­ate force’ when he stabbed ca­reer crim­i­nal Henry Vin­cent with a 12-inch kitchen knife, a coro­ner ruled. But de­spite the vic­tory, Mr Os­born-Brooks and his wife Mau­reen, 77, have been forced to leave their Lon­don home of 42 years and warned never to re­turn.

Po­lice fear mem­bers of Vin­cent’s trav­el­ling com­mu­nity could tar­get the cou­ple. They have new iden­ti­ties and live in a mys­tery lo­ca­tion, and Mr Os­born­Brooks’s face was ob­scured when he gave ev­i­dence via vide­olink at yes­ter­day’s in­quest into Vin­cent’s death in South­wark Coro­ner’s Court.

Coro­ner An­drew Har­ris ruled that Mr Os­born-Brooks ‘acted in self-de­fence’ af­ter be­ing ter­ri­fied by two masked men who raided his home at night.

Cam­paign­ers said the rul­ing would re­as­sure mil­lions of home­own­ers that they have the right to de­fend them­selves with­out fear of ar­rest. Scot­land

Yard was widely crit­i­cised af­ter Mr Os­born-Brooks was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of mur­der­ing Vin­cent hours af­ter the bur­glary at his £500,000 home in Hither Green, south-east Lon­don, in April last year.

The move sparked a pub­lic out­cry, with MPs, friends and neigh­bours ask­ing why he had been ar­rested for de­fend­ing him­self and his frail wife.

Thou­sands signed a pe­ti­tion call­ing for the re­tired RAC man­ager to be cleared and thou­sands of pounds was raised to pay his le­gal fees. Po­lice later said Mr Os­born-Brooks would face no fur­ther ac­tion over the death of the ca­reer crim­i­nal. Tory MP Philip Davies de­scribed yes­ter­day’s rul­ing as ‘a vic­tory for com­mon sense’.

He said: ‘I’m de­lighted that a home­owner has been ex­on­er­ated for do­ing no more than pro­tect­ing him­self in his own prop­erty. I hope this gives a clear mes­sage to home­own­ers – and also to crim­i­nals – that peo­ple are al­lowed to pro­tect them­selves against in­trud­ers.

‘They al­ways say that an English­man’s home is his cas­tle and I think there have been too many cases in the past where the home­owner has been on trial, or have been found to be in the wrong, for pro­tect­ing their own prop­erty from an un­wanted and un­in­vited in­truder.’

Fel­low Tory MP David Davies added: ‘Home­own­ers need to know that they can use a large de­gree of force if they are con­fronted in their homes at night by bur­glars who may be armed with weapons.’

Crim­i­nol­o­gist David Green, di­rec­tor of think-tank Civ­i­tas, said: ‘You should be en­ti­tled to de­fend your­self in your home. I think this [ver­dict] will re­as­sure home­own­ers. To me, the im­por­tant mes­sage is to the po­lice – that the law fully sup­ports the house­holder to de­fend his or her home and those in it against at­tack­ers.

‘The po­lice shouldn’t ar­rest peo­ple when they have done that. If dur­ing a des­per­ate strug­gle in your own home, in de­fend­ing some­one, you ac­ci­den­tally kill some­one, then it is rea­son­able that you should not

suf­fer le­gal con­se­quences.’ Min­is­ters tough­ened up con­tro­ver­sial ‘bash a bur­glar’ laws in April 2013 to dis­pel doubts over the right to fight back. The mea­sures sought to re­move the threat of a bur­glary vic­tim be­ing ar­rested – let alone charged – if they used vi­o­lence to drive an in­truder away or stop them ad­vanc­ing through their home.

But the leg­is­la­tion did not stop Scot­land Yard from ar­rest­ing Mr Os­born-Brooks.

The pen­sioner was up­stairs with his wife when they were dis­turbed by a knock on the front door shortly af­ter mid­night.

When Mr Os­born-Brooks an­swered the door, he was forced back­wards by Vin­cent, 37, and ac­com­plice Billy Jeeves, who were both wear­ing bal­a­clavas. Af­ter be­ing pinned into a cor­ner, the pen­sioner man­aged to grab a kitchen knife and Jeeves fled.

Vin­cent, who was high on drugs and armed with a screw­driver, shouted: ‘Come near me and I’ll stick you’. The pen­sioner, who has a heart con­di­tion, said ‘mine is big­ger than yours’ be­fore stab­bing the bur­glar in the chest. Vin­cent died in hos­pi­tal hours later.

In his judg­ment, Mr Har­ris said: ‘The house­holder was ter­ri­fied and as­serted he acted in self-de­fence af­ter an as­sault by the other in­truder. In con­sid­er­ing the force [used], it would seem that given there is two in­trud­ers at night, one with a weapon, the use of mod­er­ate force would seem to me to be pro­por­tion­ate.

‘The com­bi­na­tion of un­pre­dictabil­ity and fear were fac­tors that have to be taken into ac­count con­sid­er­ing the pro­por­tion­al­ity of the force that was used. The house­holder in­sists there was no in­ten­tion to harm. He in­di­cated sur­prise that he had ac­tu­ally stabbed the vic­tim.’

Mr Os­born-Brooks, a for­mer sol­dier, said he had never in­tended to use the knife and only wanted to frighten the in­trud­ers into leav­ing his home. ‘He came for me with the screw­driver and I just put the knife for­ward and he more or less went into it. I didn’t re­alise I had stabbed him un­til he stepped back.’

Af­ter be­ing ar­rested, Mr Os­born-Brooks and his wife faced death threats from Vin­cent’s as­so­ci­ates and told they could never re­turn to their home, which was put on the mar­ket for £100,000 un­der its mar­ket value last month. The 1920s ter­race, which is still shut­tered up, was quickly snapped up for £400,000 by a prop­erty de­vel­oper.

Shrines to Vin­cent were put up just yards from the house, spark­ing fur­ther out­rage.

Sir Craig Mackey, then deputy com­mis­sioner of Scot­land Yard, said he would not stop shrines be­ing erected and de­scribed Vin­cent’s death as a ‘tragedy’.

‘The house­holder was ter­ri­fied’

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