'I couldn't face going through that all again': Tony Martin – Norfolk farmer jailed for killing intruder – confronts would-be burglar at farm


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The Independent Online

His was the case that prompted a national debate on the measures home owners could take to protect themselves. Now Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who shot dead a burglar in his home in 1999, has revealed he had only failed to try to stop another intruder because he “couldn’t face all that hassle again”.

Mr Martin was alone at his farmhouse in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk – nicknamed “Bleak House” – when he discovered Brendon Fearon, then 29, and Fred Barras, 16. He fired his pump-action shotgun three times towards the pair, killing Barras and wounding Fearon.

Mr Martin, then 54, was granted bail but later had his bail revoked and was returned to Norwich prison for “his own protection”. He was subsequently found guilty of murdering Barras and jailed for life in 2000. The conviction was reduced to manslaughter on appeal and his sentence cut to three years.

Martin’s actions were vilified and more widely vindicated with some including Charlton Heston, the actor and president of the US National Rifle Association, supporting his right to protect his property.

Today, Mr Martin, 67, said he had discovered another burglar at his new home near Wisbech, Norfolk, on Thursday. He said he was visiting the shed when he saw a man attempting to steal car batteries. He added that the would-be burglar drove away when confronted, but Mr Martin said he decided not to attempt to detain the intruder. “There were weapons in the shed so, if I had wanted to fight him off, I could have,” Mr Martin said.

He added: “I wished I had but after everything I’ve been through in the past I just couldn’t face all that hassle again. It isn’t the first time it’s happened since I’ve been out of prison – it’s happened two or three times.”

He said: “I didn’t want to be made out as a criminal again.”

His was the first in a series of high-profile cases that culminated in David Cameron last year saying families should “feel safe in their homes” and promising that homeowners would not be punished for using “reasonable force” to protect themselves.

Sir Paul Stephenson, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has said that people who tackle criminals should be celebrated as “heroes”.

Mr Martin, who no longer holds a gun licence, was released from prison in 2003. Yesterday, he said he had not changed his views about the shooting in 1999, adding that the incident had “made me lose my faith in the system”.

In October last year, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said householders who react with force would be given more legal protection. He said “grossly disproportionate” force would continue to be illegal but added that the bar would be higher than the current “proportionate” force test used in courts.

Mr Martin, who has suffered from depression in recent years, said the events since his conviction had highlighted the dangers people living in rural communities faced.

He cited the death of 52-year-old Julian Gardner as the reason he chose not to physically confront the intruder this week. Mr Gardner was run over after confronting a group of burglars on his land in East Sussex in 2010.

“I’m angry that things like this are still happening and there’s nothing people like me can do to protect ourselves,” he said. “I’m tired of it all so I’ve done what you’re supposed to do and reported it to the police.”

A Norfolk Police spokeswoman said: “Police were called to reports of an attempted burglary of outbuildings at a property in Wisbech at around 1.20pm. Inquiries are ongoing.”