A pensioner told a coroner today how he shot dead a burglar who was trying to break into his home.

White-haired Reuben Gregory killed the intruder with his double-barrelled shotgun when he feared his caravan home was under siege from four or five people who he believed were intent of killing him and his sister.

The 73-year-old was giving evidence on the first day of an inquest into the death of Wayne Digby, a 48-year-old heroin addict who was shot in the abdomen from close range on June 12 2017 as he tried to gain entry to the woodland caravan in a field adjoining Colnbrook bypass.

Mr Gregory told Assistant Berkshire coroner Ian Wade that he had awoken to hear 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 Wayne Digby was directly in his line of fire.

Explaining what happened in front of Wayne's mother and sister at the inquest in Reading Mr Gregory said he had gone to bed between 8pm and 9pm in the evening and fallen asleep relatively quickly. He 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.

"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", he told Mr Wade.

Continuing his evidence, 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."

Mr Gregory claimed that he had not heard Wayne Digby cry out in pain when the round from his shotgun smashed into the left side of his chest, breaking two ribs and damaged 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 off the busy A4 Colnbrook bypass 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.

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

He told 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."

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, the OAP kept the gun in case he was attacked again.

He was handcuffed at the scene and asked if he was aware of what had happened to Wayne. The inquest heard Mr Gregory had said: "Yes, I'm the one that done it mate. I had been attacked at the caravan."

Carole Digby, the mother of Wayne, was permitted to ask the pensioner who killed her son with a shotgun, questions about his actions.

Ms Digby asked Mr Gregory: "It is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life but at the end of the day why did you leave him there to die rather than stop to help him?"

Mr Gregory replied: "I'm not a trained person. I tried to get him help. There is no way I can help him, I'm not medically trained."

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.