AN elderly man who "lawfully killed" a burglar in his London home has reportedly been forced into a life of hiding over fears of reprisals from the Traveller community.
Richard Osborn-Brooks, 79, fatally stabbed screwdriver-wielding intruder Henry Vincent in the heart after the 37-year-old broke into his home with another man in Hither Green, southeast London last April.
A coroner ruled yesterday that Mr Osborn-Brooks had used "moderate force" that was "proportionate" to the threat posed by Vincent when the burglar "rushed forward" and "ran into" the retiree's 12-inch knife.
The inquest into Mr Vincent's death at Southwark Coroner's Court also heard how the deceased had been high on heroin and cocaine at the time of his death, and had the opportunity to leave the home without confrontation as his accomplice had done.
Coroner Andrew Harris said Mr Osborn-Brooks had acted lawfully in defending his home and dementia-suffering wife Maureen, 77, who was asleep in their bedroom.
But despite the victory, Mr and Mrs Osborn-Brooks have reportedly been forced to leave their London home of 42 years as police fear members of the Traveller community related to Vincent could target the couple.
Mr Osborn-Brooks' face was obscured during the inquest as he gave evidence during video-link and his location was not disclosed, according to The Sun.
The ex-soldier was initially arrested on suspicion of murder last April but was later released without charge after a public outcry that saw thousands of pounds raised to support him.
In a statement to police after the incident, Mr Osborn-Brooks said two men with balaclavas knocked on his front door and charged inside demanding money just after midnight on April 4 last year.
He recalled how he was quickly cornered by one of the men, but managed to trick them and grab a knife.
In an audio recording played to the court, Mr Osborn-Brooks could be heard telling detectives: "I said I have got to get my heart medication out of the drawer.
"He let me go and I went over and grabbed that knife out of the knife block and he ran out through the front door".
It was then that Mr Vincent came down the stairs holding the screwdriver and threatening: "Get out of my way or I'll stick you with this".
Mr Osborn-Brooks said he told the raider "mine is bigger than yours" before a struggle ensued, adding: "I stabbed him. It went in about four inches".
The "helpless" homeowner said he did not intend to kill Vincent as he "thought he would look at my knife... and take the opportunity to run out the front door which was open".
He added: "My intention was only to get him out of the house and away from my wife.
"If they still continued to think that we had money in the house, they might do something to her to make me give it up but we didn’t have any money in the house so they might do something to her."
The inquest was told how Vincent staggered from the elderly couple's semi-detached, three-bedroom home after the stabbing and collapsed on the ground.
Police were called to the scene at 12.45am and found Vincent lying in the street with a puncture wound to his chest.
He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead at 3.47am due to blood loss from a single stab wound to the heart.
The court was told Mr Osborn-Brooks had fenced while serving in the army but "not a violent person... he was a father, he was a son, he was a brother".
Neighbours described the OAP as a "traditional Englishman" who was well-liked and contributed towards a scheme to reduce burglaries in the area.
Locals in the usually quiet neighbourhood were left outraged when friends, family members and associates of Vincent threatened reprisals and created a shrine of flowers and cards opposite Mr Osborn-Brooks' house.
The tributes were repeatedly torn down by neighbours and well-wishers who also blocked off the street after being left outraged that the career criminal was being commemorated in the very street he targeted.
Mr and Mrs Osborn-Brooks quickly moved out of the home over fears of revenge attacks and removal men later arrived to collect all of their belongings.