On anniversary of Emneth Hungate shootings, Norfolk farmer Tony Martin says he’s never gone back in the house where he killed a burglar
PUBLISHED: 09:35 19 August 2014 | UPDATED: 11:19 19 August 2014
Fifteen years after he shot a burglar, Tony Martin has still not gone back into his overgrown farmhouse.
Figures show falling crime
According to the latest figures, obtained using Freedom of Information (FOI) rules, there were 57 crimes recorded in Emneth Hungate last year. That compares with 202 in 1999, the year Tony Martin shot Fred Barras.
Burglaries have shown one of the steepest falls - with 59 dwelling and non-dwelling break-ins in 1999, compared with 11 last year.
The figures suggest you are considerably less likely to be a victim of crime in his corner of the Fens than you were 15 years ago.
Norfolk police said in a statement: “Crime has indeed fallen over the last several years in the rural far west of the county.
“These low crime figures can be attributed to a number of factors including focused pro-active police activity where we respond to intelligence and emerging issues by targeting patrols and operations to specific areas which have met with a high rate of success.”
He said he feared he might take the law into his own hands and end up in jail again, if anyone broke into the boarded-up property.
The 69-year-old Norfolk farmer spoke as new figures showed crime has plummeted around Emneth Hungate, where Mr Martin turned his shotgun on two burglars, killing one and wounding the other, in August 1999.
His former home, Bleak House, was boarded up with steel shutters after the shooting.
“I still haven’t been back in my house,” said Mr Martin, who was found guilty of murdering Fred Barras and given life, before being freed on appeal, when the conviction was reduced to manslaughter.
“I don’t relish the idea of going back in there, getting arrested and going to prison again. I tidy up around it - it’s surrounded by water at the moment, I call it the Everglades.”
When a car-load of burglars set off from Newark, Notts, to burgle the property, 15 years ago tonight, they found Mr Martin waiting with a pump-action Remington.
Fred Barras, 16, was found dead near the isolated property the following day. His accomplice Brendan Fearon, then 28, crawled away peppered with buckshot and raised the alarm.
Mr Martin was charged with murder and jailed for life the following year, when a jury at Norwich Crown Court found him guilty amid a worldwide outcry. The trial judge said the sentence should serve as a warning to those tempted to take the law into their own hands.
But the conviction was reduced to manslaughter and the sentence reduced to five years by the Appeal Court, in 2003. Mr Martin was freed shortly afterwards.
The case sparked a national debate about how much force was reasonable when it came to defending your home, and the law - or the way it is interpreted - has arguably shifted in the householder’s favour since.
In 2012, Andy and Tracey Ferrie were told they would not face charges after wounding members of a four-strong gang who broke into their remote cottage near Melton Mowbray, Leics. Crown prosecutors said they did not use unreasonable force.
Guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers say: “Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. You are not expected to make fine judgements over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment.
“So long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary in the heat of the moment, that would be the strongest evidence of you acting lawfully and in self-defence. This is still the case if you use something to hand as a weapon.”
The guidelines add it can also be the case if someone is killed. Mr Martin - or the groundswell of support from Middle England - can claim to have had some hand in this.
“I might have done a bit of good for mankind then,” he said. “There was such a public outcry, it pushed them into a corner where they felt like they ought to do something.”
Mr Martin said he still farms the land around his former home Bleak House, at Emneth Hungate, near Wisbech. But he is evasive about where he now lives, claiming he has several homes.
“I was talking to a policeman the other day and he asked me where I lived,” he shrugged. “When I said I don’t live anywhere, he said you’ve got to live somewhere, so I played him at his own game. I said to him is it mandatory?”
Crime figures obtained by the EDP under Freedom of Information (FOI) rules show crime has fallen dramatically around Emneth Hungate.
“They say a lot of things, the police are in denial,” said Mr Martin. “I read an article in Farmer’s Weekly the other day. This chap’s decided the police don’t really understand the problems, so he has these meetings where the police are invited down the farm and he shows them what a tractor looks like.
“This chap, I’d say to him don’t bother with the police, it all goes in one ear and out the other - it’s a waste of time.”
Police would say anything but, with some justification looking at the latest crime stats for Emneth Hungate.