Claims of organised intimidation in the Tony Martin case grew yesterday after two potential witnesses said they were threatened into keeping silent.
The men, a farmer and a villager who had fired at burglars and trespassers in separate and unrelated incidents, reportedly claimed yesterday that they had been intimidated by travellers before Martin's trial.
One of the men, who had taken Martin'sdogs after his arrest, was allegedly told: "We know you have got his dogs. We will have him first, then you, you bastard." As a result, both men were too scared to give evidence in court. Their allegations are unsubstantiated, but they are likely to boost the campaign to get Martin's conviction for murdering Fred Barras, 16, with an illegal shotgun, overturned on appeal.
At the trial Martin's defence team was keen to emphasise he had been victim of death threats. They said he was a law- abiding citizen who had only defended himself. But the jury convicted him after the prosecution said he acted as 'jury, judge and executioner" by shooting Barras and his friend, Brendon Fearon, 30, when they broke into his farmhouse in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk.
The unnamed landowner who said he was threatened claims to have been burgled and once to have fired warning shots to scare off intruders on his land. After Martin was arrested, he claims to have received death threats. He says a car drew up and an occupant shouted: "We'll deal with Tony Martin first and we are coming for you next."
He said: "I did not want my face to be seen in court. These people know who I am and that would have been enough." He added in a statement: "Living in this area you are at the mercy of the travellers and local villains." The farmer claims to have been threatened four times before Martin's trial. The fourth incident was two weeks before the trial, when three men in a van said they knew he was keeping Martin's dogs.
He claims the police then advised him not to give evidence. "I have got a family to think about so I took the advice."
Last night Michael Ballinger, from Martin's solicitors, said:"We were disappointed ... but I didn't want to drag unwilling witnesses to court, because it would have been counter-productive." He did not remember the second man but said his team asked 10 people to testify, of whom three refused. Three people did appear in court, though they were allowed to withhold their names due to "fears for their safety".