Tony Martin released from prison to safe house

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The Independent Online

Tony Martin, the farmer jailed for manslaughter after shooting dead a burglar, was transferred yesterday to a secret "safe house" in preparation for his release next week. He was moved from Highpoint prison, near Haverhill, Suffolk, to an undisclosed address in East Anglia.

Martin will remain in the custody of the prison service until Monday, when he is freed on parole. His MP, Henry Bellingham, said he had been moved to avoid the "traumatic experience" of facing a media scrum at the jail. He has also had death threats.

Mr Bellingham said: "I would expect him to call me within a few days. He will be with police protection and probably with a prison officer. It's in everyone's interest that the secret doesn't get out."

Martin shot 16-year-old Fred Barras and wounded Brendon Fearon as the pair broke into Bleak House, his farmhouse in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk. The farmer said he had been acting in self-defence, but the court was told he shot them as they tried to escape through a window.

Norwich Crown Court also heard he had a history of gun-related incidents, including firing on a car six years earlier. Martin was originally jailed for life after being convicted of murder. But the conviction was overturned and reduced to manslaughter and he was sentenced to five years.

The case became a cause célèbre, with tabloid supporters arguing he had made a stand to defend his home in the face of rising lawlessness, while critics condemned him as a vigilante.

Martin becomes eligible for automatic release on Monday, having served two-thirds of his sentence. He could have qualified for early release last September, but the Parole Board refused, ruling that he had not shown sufficient remorse and could still pose a danger to burglars.

After his release, he plans to launch campaigns to protect the rights of householders who defend themselves against intruders and to stop burglars getting legal aid to sue for compensation in such circumstances. Martin also faces legal action from Fearon, who is claiming £15,000 compensation for injuries.

Martin is not expected to return to his home, which has deteriorated so rapidly since he was jailed that it cannot be lived in until it has been refurbished. He is to live with friends, but he has told them he wants to go back home and resume farming. Ideas being discussed include fitting the farm with electronic gates and an air-raid siren.

Mr Bellingham, Tory MP for North West Norfolk, said: "The police are putting a lot of effort and work into his own security and trying to make the place more secure."

Martin is also planning to write a book on the background to the killing and his experiences in five prisons. He is unlikely to co-operate with John McVicar, the former armed robber-turned-author, who offered to edit a book on the subject.