Man’s 999 call after shooting dead armed burglar trying to break into his home
4th January 2019

A terrified pensioner shot dead an armed burglar with a double-barrelled shotgun when he tried to break into his caravan home, an inquest heard today.

Reuben Gregory, 73, blasted Wayne Digby, 48, as he feared the harm the burglar and his five accomplices would cause.

Mr Digby’s inquest heard how he tried to get access to the woodland caravan on June 12, 2017, but was shot in the abdomen from close range.

But Mr Digby and his accomplices were armed with a machete, cable ties looped together to form links mimicking handcuffs, a Molotov cocktail made of a tennis ball and an accelerant-soaked rag, and a scarecrow attached to a wooden stake with a painted face and dressed in a boiler suit.

Mr Gregory later told a 999 call operator: "I’m Mr Gregory, I’m at Imperial Coaches at the mo. I’ve just shot and killed someone. They have been trying to break into my caravan and I’ve had to kill someone."

Mr Gregory’s sister Charlotte Hunter-Smith, who was also in the caravan near Slough, Berkshire, at the time, today told the inquest she screamed at the thugs to "go away and leave us alone".

The 61-year-old later told police officers: "I could hear them ripping the door apart so by the time I turned up he had it backwards, like up against the side of the caravan.

"That’s when the guard went to get the gun. They didn’t manage to get in but they would have. I dread to think what they would have done."

Ian Wade, assistant Berkshire coroner, heard Mr Gregory had awoken to the sound of men trying to rip his caravan door apart while laughing and jeering.

He had grabbed his shotgun with the intention of scaring the intruders away by firing at the ground, not knowing Mr Digby was directly in his line of fire on the other side of the door, the inquest heard.

Mr Gregory, after seeing objects he believed to be knives being pushed through a gap in the caravan door, which had been reinforced with wire and aluminium following previous burglaries, had pushed the gun barrel through and blasted out into the darkness.

Police investigators found heroin addict Mr Digby had vomited on Mr Gregory’s doorstep as a result of being shot and police told the coroner they believe Mr Digby got on his bicycle despite his wound and peddled around 150 yards away before he succumbed to his catastrophic injury and collapsed.

He was abandoned by Hearn, now aged 49 years and serving a 10-year sentence for aggravated burglary, who peddled his own Giant-branded bike away to a nearby garage and called a friend.

Following the shooting Ms Hunter-Smith, armed with a kitchen knife, left the caravan with her brother, to try to flag down a car to call the police.

The coroner heard that they almost fell over Mr Digby’s body as they walked in the dark.

The inquest heard that Mr Gregory had managed to wake a cleaner, Irina Dragusin who was sleeping in a caravan at the nearby Imperial Coaches site and used her phone to call police at 3.23am.

Armed police with machine guns, shields and tasers descended on the woodland around Mr Gregory’s caravan and found Mr Digby’s corpse on its back, laying motionless with a lung protruding from the body.

Officers arrested Mr Gregory at gunpoint and he told them: "I’m the one that done it mate. I had been attacked at the caravan."

The pensioner, whose family had lived for over 60 years on the land his caravan occupies in a lay-by off the busy A4 Colnbrook bypass, near Slough, Berks., was arrested on suspicion of murder, but the charges were later dropped.

He was later jailed for 10 months on December 11 2017 after admitting illegally owning a shotgun without a licence, and served half of his sentence on licence.

The inquest continues.

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