A PENSIONER arrested on suspicion of murdering an intruder should not be punished for defending his home, neighbours said last night.
Richard Osborn-Brooks, 78, is said to have stabbed the burglar, 38, as they struggled in the kitchen of the house he shares with his disabled wife in south-east London.
Another intruder tried to carry the injured man — said to have been armed with a screwdriver — to a white van in the street outside but gave up and drove off before police arrived.
Clem Williams, 58, a martial arts instructor who has lived on the street for two decades, said yesterday: ‘Whywere the men at his house? The man has a right to defend his home. The police should let him go.’
Another resident, Adam Lake, said: ‘He doesn’t deserve to be punished for defending himself.
‘Neighbours I’ve spoken to all agree the priority needs to be to support him after everything he’s been through. He was just protecting himself after all.’
Mr Osborn-Brooks was asleep in bed with his wife Maureen in Hither Green when he heard a noise and got up to discover the two intruders.
He is said to have been forced into the kitchen by the 38-year-old before stabbing him in the upper body.
When police arrived at about 1am yesterday, they initially arrested him on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. The suspected offence was changed to murder after the burglar died of his injuries in hospital.
The second intruder, who was upstairs in the house at the time of the stabbing, remained at large last night.
After he fled, neighbours went to help the man left lying outside the house.
Christine Marshall said: ‘We ran over to him and he was just staring at us gasping and I knew he was going to go because his pupils were dilating.
‘I’ll not forget that because he was staring right into my eyes.’
Resident and Neighbourhood Watch member Sylbourne Sydial said the case had echoes of the ordeal faced by Tony Martin, who served three years in prison for killing a burglar in 1999.
The Norfolk farmer was jailed for murdering the 16-year-old but saw the conviction reduced on appeal to manslaughter.
Police said inquiries into the London case were ongoing.