Police question man over farmer's murder

A man was being questioned by police today on suspicion of murdering a farmer believed to have died in a botched robbery.

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

A Sussex Police spokesman said the 40-year-old man from Ashford, Kent, was arrested in the town yesterday and taken to a custody centre in Eastbourne to be interviewed.

Police believe Mr Gardner may have disturbed somebody who was 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.

His business partner found his body on Monday morning and detectives believe the murder took place some time after 11pm the previous day.

On Thursday police began searching a pond in Sandhurst, Kent, a few miles from the farm, where a burned-out Cherokee Jeep was found hours after the killing.

The Jeep had been in for repair at Mr Gardner's business and has been forensically examined and removed from the site.

Forensic searches were also being carried out at 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 it too was being 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.