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Colnbrook pensioner who shot at would-be burglars outside secluded caravan is jailed

A pensioner who killed a would-be burglar outside his secluded caravan using an illegally owned shotgun he kept for ‘self defence’ was jailed for 10 months today (Monday).

In the early hours of June 12, 72-year-old Reuben Gregory was awoken by his screaming sister Kathleen, who he lived with in a caravan alongside the Colnbrook bypass.

Two heavily armed assailants, Wayne Digby and Anthony ‘Tony’ Hearn, both 48, tried to force their way through the caravan door.

The pair were armed with items including bolt cutters, meat tenderisers and cable ties.

A machete, a tennis ball covered in fire accelerator, a funnel and bleach were also found nearby.

The court heard Gregory, whose caravan had been subject to home invasions in the past, reached for his 12 gauge shotgun, stored beside a mattress, and shot through the door, hitting Digby in the abdomen and killing him.

Gregory, who was sentenced at Reading Crown Court, was not charged with Digby’s death but had pleaded guilty to possession of a shotgun without a certificate in September.

Hearn, of Moreland Close, Colnbrook, was jailed last month for 10 years for conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.

The court heard how Gregory, who bought his shotgun off an ‘unknown male in the 1980s’, phoned the police straight after the shooting and was honest and frank in interviews, telling officers his gun was for self defence.

He said: “It was only there just preservation, that’s all it was, just to help you out if a big gang turned up with knives and guns, I ain’t going out with my fingers.”

The court heard how Gregory kept his shotgun routinely loaded and had two spare useable cartridges in the caravan.

In another police interview, Gregory said he went to the police to gain a shotgun license and was told he was ineligible as he had no legal reason to own one and because his caravan was not an appropriate environment to keep one.

Despite this, Gregory kept hold of his shotgun for about 20 to 25 years.

Defending Gregory, Nick Cotter said: “Mr Gregory never envisaged finding himself on the wrong side of the criminal justice system.

“He has kept himself to himself over the years, he’s a very private man, a very quiet individual who has actually been on good terms with the local constabulary over the years.

“He just gets on with his life in a quiet way.”

The court heard how on numerous occasions Gregory had rejected offers of money from the media to tell his story of what happened on that night.

Mr Cotter said: “If the clock could be turned back he would love that to be the case but it can’t.

“He is sorry that anyone got hurt in this incident.

“He makes no bones about it that he has taken another life, something he will always have to live with.”

Judge Paul Dugdale passed a 10-month immediate jail sentence, the second half of which Gregory will serve on license in the community.

The judge said: “Our community has very little gun crime or gun related injuries when you compare us to other jurisdictions around the world and undoubtedly that is due to the rigorous and strict gun licensing that is enforced by the police and the courts.”

When the sentence was passed, a woman in the court’s public gallery said ‘yes’ in excitement, prompting a heated exchange between two families after Gregory was taken away.

Investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Andy Shearwood, of the Major Crime Unit, said: “At first, this incident was treated as a murder. However the subsequent investigation has provided additional evidence regarding the particular circumstances leading up to the shooting.

“Both Reuben Gregory and his sister described being in fear for their safety and of trying to prevent the men getting into the caravan. They were in a remote location with no means of calling for help (the caravan had no electricity or telephone). As the burglars tried to break in, Gregory fired his double-barrelled shotgun through the door which he said was in self-defence of himself and his sister.

“He did not have a shotgun certificate, so the possession of the shotgun itself was unlawful. This is a very serious offence as owning a shotgun comes with immense responsibility.

“However it cannot be ignored that the incident began with a conspiracy to burgle from vulnerable occupants of a remote home. The co-conspirators were prepared to use force to get what they wanted and in the process they terrified the occupants, who unlawfully possessed the shotgun.

“There is no doubt that this was a tragic incident for all concerned, which has resulted in terrible consequences, including the death of Wayne Digby and our thoughts are with his family.”

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