Reuben Gregory killed the intruder with his double-barrelled shotgun at his home
A 73-year-old man today told a coroner how he shot dead a burglar who was trying to break into his home amid fears up to five people were trying to get in.
Reuben Gregory killed the intruder with his double-barrelled shotgun when he feared his caravan was under siege.
Mr Gregory, who lives near Slough, Berkshire, was giving evidence at an inquest into the death of Wayne Digby, 48, a heroin addict shot in the abdomen from close range on June 12, 2017 as he tried to gain entry to the caravan.
Mr Gregory said he 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.
Explaining what happened in front of Mrs Digby’s mother and sister at the inquest in Reading, Mr Gregory said he had gone to bed between 8pm and 9pm and fallen asleep – but woke up to hear the noise of the door being smashed in.
Mr Gregory said: ‘I made my way to the door as fast as I could as it wouldn’t take hours for them to get through, it would only take minutes.
‘When I was at the door I smelled something like ammonia, a really strong smell, like chemicals.
Wayne Digby, 48, was a heroin addict shot in the abdomen from close range on June 12, 2017
‘What scared me the most was that they started laughing and joking, saying: ‘get on with it! Get it!’ There was jeering out there. They were taking pleasure sir’
Continuing his evidence to assistant Berkshire coroner Ian Wade, Mr Gregory said: ‘I think there were so many of them – I reckoned three to five.
‘My sister was screaming at them, asking them to leave the caravan, to go away and leave us alone. I’m sorry to say they just ignored it. But then it stopped and that is when I got the gun.’
As Mr Gregory described what was in his mind as he took the gun, which lay loaded but broken next to his bed each night, from his bedroom and to the door, the coroner told him he had the right not to say anything which would incriminate him.
Tony Martin case: 1999 death that sparked debate about how homeowners can defend their property
Tony Martin (right) killed Fred Barras, 16, and wounded accomplice Brendon Fearon, 29, with his unlicensed shotgun after he found them late at night inside his home in August 1999.
He was jailed for life for murder at Norwich Crown Court in April 2000, but later had his sentence reduced to five years for manslaughter.
He appealed against his conviction, claiming that his account was not properly put forward at his trial. It was also revealed that he had Asperger’s Syndrome.
Fearon, who admitted conspiring to burgle Bleak House, accompanied by Fred Barras, was jailed for three years at Norwich Crown Court in 2000 and was released in August the following year.
Mr Martin’s case provoked a national debate about the measures homeowners can take to defend their property.
The farmer, who is known for his eccentric behaviour, was finally released in 2003, but never returned to live in his derelict detached home on his 300-acres of land at Bleak House Farm.
Instead he is thought to have spent the last 12 years sleeping in his car and at the homes of friends.
Mr Martin has often spoken about how householders should have the right to protect themselves.
Mr Wade said: ‘If you believe that any of these questions that I’m asking might have a tendency to leave you vulnerable, then you are entitled to say to me, ‘I’m sorry, coroner, I don’t wish to answer that question’.’
Mr Gregory claimed that he had not heard Mr Digby cry out in pain when the round from his shotgun smashed into the left side of his chest, breaking two ribs and damaging his liver and pancreas.
He said he had only realised he had hit someone when he discovered Mr Digby lying in a pool of blood 150 yards from his caravan.
When police arrived on the scene, having received a call at 3.23am, Mr Gregory had told them ‘I’m the one that did it, mate.’
Officers later found a rucksack next to Mr Digby’s body containing a mallet, cable ties and the ingredients for a crude Molotov cocktail made out of half a tennis ball, with a fuse made out of a flammable liquid and a rag.
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, was arrested on suspicion of murder, but the charges were later dropped.
He was later jailed for ten months on December 11, 2017 after admitting illegally owning a shotgun without a licence.
Gregory had previously told police that he owned the shotgun for ‘self-preservation’.
Today, the coroner listened to a recording of the 999 call made by Mr Gregory who told the police that he ‘had just shot and killed someone’ just moments after he found Mr Digby’s lifeless body in the woodland around his caravan.
After seeing objects he believed to be knives being pushed through a gap in his caravan door, which had been reinforced with wire and aluminium following previous burglaries, Mr Gregory had pushed the gun barrel through and blasted out into the darkness.
Mr Gregory had opened his caravan stable door after firing a round from his shotgun and discovered to his left abandoned white overalls which resembled suits which police use for forensic examinations.
However, they had painted black faces on them which the coroner described as bizarre. He also saw the makeshift Molotov cocktail and bottles of chemicals.
Reuben Gregory shot dead Wayne Digby as he attempted to rob his caravan (pictured)
Police investigators found Mr Digby had vomited on Mr Gregory’s doorstep as a result of being shot but the pensioner said he had seen no vomit or blood or anyone upon opening the door.
He and his sister, who was armed with a kitchen knife, left their caravan, which has no electricity or running water, 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 Mr Gregory tell a 999 call operator: ‘I’m Mr Gregory, I’m at Imperial Coaches here 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.
‘I have woken up, there was a gang of them trying to break into my caravan. They were putting in knives, whatever they had. I had to shoot one of them and he’s dead and I need the police here.’
When asked by the 999 operator whether the man he had shot was dead, Mr Gregory said: ‘If he ain’t dead, he’s showing good signs of it, I’ll tell you that now.’
Mr Gregory told the call handler he still had his weapon and it was still loaded but he promised to unload it before hanging up the phone, even though he was asked to stay on the line.
Armed police descended on Mr Gregory’s caravan and he told the inquest: ‘I had machine guns pointed at me. I understand why they done it, they didn’t know what they were walking into.’
In the 1980s, Mr Gregory had been the victim of a robbery and was tied up. After that he obtained the shotgun and asked police for a certificate for it but officers refused. However, he kept the gun in case he was attacked again.
Mr Gregory’s sister, Catherine Gregory, 61, who now goes by the name Charlotte Hunter-Smith, was also in the caravan on the night of the incident but she had ignored a summons to attend the inquest and give evidence.
The hearing continues.