Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who shot a teenage boy in the back as he tried to burgle his isolated farmhouse, was found guilty of murder and sent to prison for life at the end of a case that touched a raw nerve across rural Britain.
In spite of cries of “yes, yes” and “I hope you die in jail” from the family of 16-year-old Fred Barras, the farmer – flanked by two police officers after receiving threats on his life – remained unmoved.
Martin was found guilty of murder by a jury of six men and six women who had earlier given not guilty verdicts on charges of attempting to murder another man, the burglar Brendon Fearon, and of possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to injure life. He was found guilty of wounding Fearon with intent to kill.
Passing three sentences of life, 10 years and 12 months to run concurrently, Mr Justice Owen said: “It seems to me that this case serves as a dire warning to all burglars who break into the houses of other people.
“The law is that every citizen is entitled to use reasonable force to prevent crime. Burglary is a crime and a householder in his own home may think he is being reasonable but he may not be reasonable and that can have tragic consequences.”
Martin killed Barras, a market trader from a Gypsy travelling family based in Newark, Nottinghamshire, last August during a late-night incident at his farm. The teenager, who had a number of convictions, was on his “first big job” to burgle Martin’s home, Bleak House. He and Fearon were attacked by one of the farmer’s rottweilers as they tried to get away.
The court heard that Martin, who had a vitriolic hatred for burglars and Gypsies, had come downstairs with a pump-action Winchester shotgun and fired at the two men.
Barras had pleaded for his life, shouting: “I’m sorry. Please don’t. Mum.” In panic, Fearon, who was seriously injured, pulled out a rotten window and he and Barras jumped through. It was not until the next afternoon that the teenage boy’s body was found.