Reclusive pensioner did 'nothing more than was necessary' when he shot dead a burglar, prosecutors rule

Martin Evans
Reuben Gregory was jailed for ten months for owning a shotgun without a licence - INS News Agency Ltd

A pensioner, who shot dead a burglar inside his secluded home, has avoided prosecution for killing the man, after it was deemed he acted in self defence and did “nothing more than was necessary”.

Reuben Gregory, 72, was arrested on suspicion of murder after he blasted the intruder in the chest with a double barrelled shotgun, at a caravan he shared with his elderly sister,

Kathleen, in Colnbrook, close to Heathrow Airport.

Wayne Digby, 48, died at the scene, while his accomplice, Anthony Hearn, was also injured.

But prosecutors decided to only charge Gregory with one count of possessing a shotgun without a certificate, after concluding that in opening fire "he did nothing more than was necessary to protect himself and his sister from intruders".

Gregory admitted the single offence and was jailed for 10 months.

Reading Crown Court heard how Gregory and his sister had lived a frugal existence at the remote caravan since the 1960s, with no mains electricity, no water supply and no access to a telephone.

They were already nervous about security after they were targeted by burglars previously.

On June 12, Gregory was awoken by the sound of his sister’s screams after she disturbed Digby and Hearn as they broke in.

Reuben Gregory and his sister fought off the burglars at their home near Heathrow Airport Credit: INS

The court was told the pair had desperately tried to fight off the intruders with Miss Gregory arming herself with a knife.

Gregory then reached for the illegally held shotgun and fired at the men through a hole in the door.

When police attended the scene they found a wooden mallet, cable ties, a bottle of bleach, a funnel and bolt crimpers in a bag lying close to Mr Digby's body.

Officers also discovered a plastic bottle full of an accelerant, a tennis ball full of flammable liquid and a machete bearing Mr Hearn's DNA close by.

After shooting at the men, Gregory went to get help, using a mobile phone borrowed from a neighbour to dial 999.

He told the police that "a gang" had tried to break into his home.

He later told officers: "Yes I'm the one who's done it mate, I've been attacked at the caravan."

Armed police were sent to the scene and found Mr Digby's body around 100 metres from the caravan.

Gregory told officers that he bought the shotgun in the 1980s for self-defence after his family was targeted in a previous break-in.

James Cable for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "Following a review of the material generated as a result of the police investigation, Mr Gregory's assertion that he was acting in self-defence could not be disproved and that he did nothing more than was necessary to protect himself and his sister from intruders.

"Therefore, the evidential test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors was not met, meaning there was not a realistic prospect of conviction for murder or manslaughter.

"Accordingly no further action was taken against Gregory in respect of these offences.

"Gregory was not in legal possession of the shotgun he used, however, which is a very serious matter in itself and was the basis of this prosecution."

In September, Hearn pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and was sentenced to 10 years in prison at Reading Crown Court.