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Coroner rules pensioner committed manslaughter when he shot burglar

James Hockaday

Coroner rules pensioner committed manslaughter when he shot burglar

An image taken from the crime scene

A coroner has ruled that a man who fired a shotgun at the door of his caravan along the Colnbrook by-pass unlawfully killed an assailant who tried to force his way in.

Wayne Digby, 48, of Crown Meadows, Colnbrook, was found dead on June 12, 2017 after being shot in the abdomen while trying to break into the caravan in the early hours of the morning.

Mr Digby was joined by Anthony Hearn, 48, of Moreland Close, Colnbrook, who admitted to aggravated burglary and is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.

The two-day inquest at Reading Town Hall heard on Friday that the two burglars had a range of equipment including cable ties, a machete and fire accelerant – which had been placed inside a partially cut tennis ball containing a rag.

A bag containing a wooden mallet, a bottle of bleach with a funnel and bolt cutters were found next to Mr Digby’s body, which was lying next to a bicycle about 200 metres away from the caravan, the inquest was told.

Reuben Gregory, 73, who lived with his sister Charlotte Hunter-Smith, also known as Kathleen Gregory, shot through the bottom of the caravan's stable door which was open as the intruders tried to get in. 

A transcript of a police interview with Miss Hunter-Smith on June 13, 2017 was read out at the inquest.

Miss Hunter Smith had defied a summons to appear at the inquest in person.

The 55-year-old told officers she waved a knife to fend off the assailants.

DC Alex Boyce of Thames Valley Police told the inquest officers believed the burglars had built a scarecrow, dressed it in a white protective suit and drawn a face on it to assist them in their raid, although the express purpose is not clear.

In her police interview, Miss Hunter-Smith said while she kept the invaders at bay, her brother, who she referred to as ‘the guard’, fired his 12-gauge shotgun from between six to eight feet away.

“When he let it off my right side would have definitely got it, that’s why I moved back out of the way,” she said.

“I would have got blasted,” added Miss Hunter-Smith, who says she was sure her brother did not intend to harm anyone with the shot.

“I do believe he only done it just to scare them,” she told officers.

“They didn’t get in but they would have if we didn’t act so quickly, they would have gotten in.

“I dread to think what they would have done,” she added.

Mr Gregory pleaded guilty to possession of a shotgun without a certificate and was jailed for 10 months in December 2017 but was never charged for Mr Digby’s death.

Coroner Ian Wade said while Hearn and Mr Digby’s actions were ‘frightening and unlawful’ he did not believe the occupants lives were in immediate danger and said other protective measures could have been taken.

 He concluded that Mr Digby had been killed by a single shotgun wound to the abdomen and that Mr Gregory had carried out an ‘unlawful act of manslaughter’ – describing the death as an ‘unlawful killing’.




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