Fourth arrest over farmer's death

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The Independent Online

Detectives investigating the murder of a farmer believed to have died in a botched robbery made a fourth arrest today.

Julian Gardner, 53, suffered multiple injuries after apparently disturbing crooks at isolated Bush Barn Farm in Robertsbridge, East Sussex.

His body was found by his business partner on October 11, with the murder believed to have taken place some time after 11pm the previous day.

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said a 31-year-old man was arrested in Ashford, Kent, on suspicion of murder and will be transferred to Sussex for questioning.

A 31-year-old man, also from Kent, who was arrested in Caernarfon, North Wales, yesterday has now arrived in Sussex for questioning, she added.

Meanwhile, two other men, 29 and 40, both from Ashford, were arrested earlier this month and are due to answer bail in November.

Police believe Mr Gardner may have disturbed somebody trying to break into outbuildings at the farm where he ran an agricultural and car repair business.

One theory is that his compression-type injuries were sustained when he was crushed between two vehicles.

Forensic searches have been carried out on a burned-out Cherokee Jeep, which had been in for repair at Mr Gardner's business and was found hours after the killing in Sandhurst, Kent, a few miles from the farm.

A second 4x4, a Land Rover Defender owned by Mr Gardner, was also discovered burned-out at a different location, at Cripps Corner, near Battle, and has been forensically examined.

Police said inquiries into Mr Gardner's background found nothing to suggest he might have been the victim of a grudge attack.

His death came just days after a campaign to keep locals safe, with police, crime prevention officers, locksmiths and alarm firms offering tips to prevent burglaries.

Police said there was no evidence that he had been burgled in the past. In October last year he reported to police an attempted theft of vehicle batteries from his farm off the A21.

Youths had tried to flee after putting the batteries in a wheelbarrow but they abandoned them when they were disturbed by a neighbour.

It has emerged that Mr Gardner's 90-year-old widowed mother was asleep in the main farmhouse when her son was killed.

In a statement, Molly Gardner said the lives of she and his sister, Anna Murphy, would never be the same again, adding: "The space he leaves will never be filled."

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0845 6070 999, quoting Operation Bradford, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.