A gunman who fired a sawn-off shotgun through a letterbox hit the wrong man, a jury heard this week.

The intended victim, Ahmed Oke, was described in court as a drug supplier with an unsavoury reputation.

But St Albans Crown Court heard he was not at his top-floor flat in Lalsham House on Ainsdale Road, South Oxhey, when the shot was fired. Instead man in his 30s who was staying there was hit, causing injuries to his leg.

Prosecutor David Aaronberg QC said the shooting took place at 10.35pm on December 1 last year.

He said: "The sawn off shotgun was fired through the letterbox of the front door as the occupant approached.

"Ahmed Oke was the target, but he was not there. Shaun Smith was staying there and received the impact of shot. Fortunately the premises had a reinforced letterbox fitted that absorbed much of impact of shot.

"Mr Smith suffered a very nasty wound to his leg. Had it not been for the reinforced letterbox and the fact that he was standing to the left of the door, he would have been injured extremely seriously or possibly fatally."

Five men deny conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm: Anthony McLaughlin, 27, of Baldwins Lane, Watford; Christopher Kerr, 32, of Wyril Road, Lambeth; Wayne Holness, 23, of no fixed address; Leon Usher, 39, of Bedford Road, Barton-Le-Clay; and Michael Smith, 25, of John Street, South Norwood.

Holness, Kerr and Smith also deny possessing a firearm.

The sister of Michael Smith, Kalister Smith, 21, of Birdhurst Avenue, Croydon, denies possessing a firearm. She also denies assisting an offender.

In addition, Kalister Smith and Wayne Holness deny possessing a Class B drug with intent to supply.

The prosecutor said Mr Oke “was concerned in a number of matters that may have led to him being the target for a revenge attack”.

In January last year a car went up in flames outside his home and the fire brigade were asked to put a fire-proof letter box in his flat.

Six weeks before the shooting, on 18 October, a gun was discharged in the street outside his home. The police found a shotgun shell in the street along with a crossbow bolt. When they searched Mr Oke's flat, a crossbow was found.

Mr Aaronberg told the jury of six men and six women there had been agreement between the five male defendants to kill Mr Oke.

"The shooting came in the aftermath of communication between them that day. There were lots of telephone calls and lots of texts exchanged," he said.

He said there was communication between McLaughlin, Usher and Kerr. Kerr is alleged to have approached Holness to assist in the killing as he had access to a shotgun.

The gun was said to be stored in a Ford Fiesta belonging to Kalister Smith, Holness' former girlfriend, near her home in South Norwood.

The prosecutor said: "Mr Holness told the police that he did have a gun and drugs in car. He said he had been forced by three men involved in drugs and guns to act as a minder. He stored them in ex-girlfriend’s car."

The case continues.