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'Tony Martin country' - thieves still target farmer 20 years after he shot two burglars

Tony Martin's farm is still being broken into 20 years after he shot two burglars  Picture: Matthew Usher

Tony Martin's farm is still being broken into 20 years after he shot two burglars Picture: Matthew Usher

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Tony Martin is still being targeted by thieves - 20 years after he shot two burglars at his Norfolk farm.

Fred Barras, 16, who died in the shootings at Bleak House  Picture: PAFred Barras, 16, who died in the shootings at Bleak House Picture: PA

A barn was broken into at Bleak House, Emneth Hungate, near Wisbech, in the latest attack on the home of the man who sparked a national debate over how much force householders could use to defend their properties.

Mr Martin opened fire on Fred Barras and Brendon Fearon with an illegally-held pump-action shotgun after they broke into his property on the night of Saturday, August 20, 1999.

Mr Barras, 16, from Newark, was found dead in undergrowth near the house the following day. Mr Fearon, then 29 and also from Newark, survived the shooting.

Mr Martin, now in his 70s, was jailed for life after a Norwich Crown Court jury found him guilty of murder in 2000. But the conviction was reduced to manslaughter on appeal in 2002 and he returned to his farm after being released the following year.

Brendon Fearon, 29, who survived the shootings  Picture: PABrendon Fearon, 29, who survived the shootings Picture: PA

He says his property has been broken into on a number of occasions over the years since he was freed. The most recent was on Monday, August 5, when a barn was entered and a small 
fire lit.

A police officer attended after Mr Martin dialled 999. He said he was less than happy with their response.

"I don't know what their job is supposed to be really," he said. "I told him people had tried to break into the shed, I told him someone had started a fire in the shed. Then I started speaking freely, I said something to him he didn't like. The next thing was: 'Oh, we'll log it.

"He said he'd ring me back, he never has. I'm angered at the way I'm treated considering the problems I've had."

Farmer Tony Martin is escorted to a prison van as he leaves the High Court in central London in 2001  Picture: PAFarmer Tony Martin is escorted to a prison van as he leaves the High Court in central London in 2001 Picture: PA

Mr Martin has CCTV images from 7.30pm on August 5, showing two men and a dark 4x4 pick-up truck. He says chain saws were also stolen from the shed that evening.

The same men and vehicle, with its number plate clearly visible, were caught on camera four nights earlier. The pictures have been passed to police.

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A police spokesman said: "Police are investigating a burglary at a barn in Emneth Hungate on August 5. A suspect or suspects gained access to a barn and small fire was lit inside which was extinguished by the landowner.

Bleak House, Mr Martin's overgrown farmhouse at Emneth Hungate  Picture: Matthew UsherBleak House, Mr Martin's overgrown farmhouse at Emneth Hungate Picture: Matthew Usher

"Officers attended the scene on the night and police have since been contacted about CCTV evidence which will be gathered and reviewed in due course."

One friend of the farmer said: "Something happens at Bleak House two or three times a month. Tony rings the police, they come and it's just by the by.

"As soon as it's Tony Martin, it doesn't matter. When he calls them, they're not interested because it's Tony Martin.

"If it was someone else it would be different altogether, it's not good enough. It was arson, it was burglary."

Bleak House shortly after the shootings in August 1999 Picture: John HocknellBleak House shortly after the shootings in August 1999 Picture: John Hocknell

More people now live in the vicinity of Bleak House than at the time of the shootings.

New houses have been built on what were small holdings, orchards and gardens 20 years ago.

Mr Martin said a kitchen was recently stolen from a neighbouring property whilst it was being fitted.

A house nearby is surrounded by an 8ft high stockade like a fort. An Alsatian growls behind formidable iron gates at another property. Signs everywhere warn of concealed CCTV and dogs running loose.

"I'm not the only oddball around here," said Mr Martin. "This generation don't want to end up like I did so they've got this siege mentality, they build fences.

"This is Tony Martin country. This is Britain."

READ MORE - Tony Martin says he has no regrets at shooting

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