Husband stabbed to death after catching burglar

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The Independent Online

A man was stabbed to death by a burglar after he chased the intruder from his home and struggled with him in a neighbouring garden, police said yesterday.

A man was stabbed to death by a burglar after he chased the intruder from his home and struggled with him in a neighbouring garden, police said yesterday.

Neighbours described hearing John Pettit screaming in pain during the fight in west London on Thursday night.

Mr Pettit, a builder in his early 60s, had returned home at about 10pm with his wife, Brenda, when they interrupted a burglar at their house in Pinner, north-west London. He is believed to have chased the burglar through three gardens and over two fences at the back of their house in Uxbridge Road before catching the fleeing man.

Jack Craigie-Williams, a neighbour, said: "I heard someone crashing through the fence in my garden but at first it was so loud that I thought it was fireworks going off. There was a lot of commotion."

Another neighbour said: "I heard a lot of screaming and then there were two yells, as if someone was in agony."

When police arrived Mr Pettit was still alive, but he later died at the scene, despite attempts to resuscitate him. Police could not say how many times he was stabbed or in which part of the body.

Detective Inspector George Couch, who is leading the murder hunt, said: "It appeared Mr Pettit had chased the intruder out of his house and across three back gardens."

It is understood the builder would have had to scale at least two fences before confronting his killer. "Something happened in that last garden and he was stabbed," said Det Insp Couch.

Helicopters and police dogs were used to search for the killer but he escaped.

Police yesterday sealed off Mr Pettit's large semi-detached mock Tudor home, estimated to be worth about £350,000, and 10 neighbouring houses in the affluent London suburb.

Tony Partree, a neighbour, said: "He was quite a stocky fellow but he was not the aggressive type. You could tell he was a real family man. His wife must be devastated."

Police said Mrs Pettit was being cared for by relatives in the Watford area.

Another neighbour said Mr Pettit was a family man and she believed that he had a number of children and grandchildren.

"I am absolutely shocked that something like this should happen here. It is a very well-to-do area and we never get any trouble," said the woman, who did not want to be named.

Patrick Anthony, 50, a neighbour, said: "You get the odd burglary around here but I've never heard of anyone being stabbed before. This is a fairly affluent area and a reasonably peaceful one."

A national debate about the right of a home owner to use force in self-defence was sparked earlier this year when the Norfolk farmer Tony Martin was jailed for life for shooting dead an unarmed teenage burglar. Martin was convicted in April of murdering Fred Barras, 16, with a shotgun, and wounding an accomplice.

In June Richard Watkins, 50, a postmaster, stabbed to death a robber who entered his rural post office with a sawn-off shotgun. Mr Watkins was not charged for the incident near Kidderminster, Worcestershire.

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