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The BBC's Peter Hunt
"Martin is said to be shocked and devastated by the jury's verdict"
 real 28k

Det Chief Insp Martin Wright
"This case from start to finish has been a tragedy"
 real 28k

Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 00:15 GMT 01:15 UK
Farmer guilty of murdering burglar
Tony Martin
Tony Martin: Denied murdering Fred Barras
A farmer who opened fire on two burglars who broke into his remote farmhouse has been found guilty of murder.

Tony Martin, 55, was sentenced to life at Norwich Crown Court for murdering 16-year-old Fred Barras by a majority verdict of 10 to two.

Fred Barras
Fred Barrras was killed after breaking into Bleak House
The jury also found him guilty of wounding with intent Mr Barras' accomplice Brendan Fearon.

Martin, described in court as eccentric in the extreme, had earlier been cleared unanimously of attempting to murder Mr Fearon and of possessing a firearm with intent at his farmhouse called Bleak House in Emneth Hungate, near Emneth, Norfolk.

As the guilty verdicts were read out a cry of "Yes" was heard from the public gallery.

'Dire warning'

Martin, dressed in smart blazer and floral tie, remained impassive but there were screams of joy from members of the Barras' family.

"I hope you die in jail," one shouted at Martin.

Jailing Martin, Mr Justice Owen told him there was only one sentence he could pass.

"This case should serve as a dire warning to all burglars who break in to people's houses," he said.

Ellen Barras: Devastated by her son's death
He said a householder could use reasonable force to defend themselves from burglary.

"People have the right to use that reasonable force and it can have tragic results," he said.

After the trial Fred Barras' family said he had been fun-loving and always happy.

"Let's remember he was just 16 and the baby of our family," they said.

"We are devastated by our loss. The outcome of this trial can't bring him back and our loss has torn our lives apart."

'No satisfaction'

Det Chief Insp Martin Wright, who led the investigation, said he took no satisfaction from the outcome of the case.

"It has been a tragedy from start to finish," he said.

"Burglary is without doubt one of the most despicable crimes there is but I would stress to everybody it is up to the police to resolve it and this very tragic case when there has been no winners shows that is the case."

Martin had denied murdering 16-year-old Fred Barras on 20 August, saying he was a victim of crime and was acting in self-defence.

Brendan Fearon: Shot like "a rat in a trap"
But Rosamund Horwood-Smart QC, prosecuting, said Fearon, 30 and Barras, both of Newark, Nottinghamshire, had been shot "like rats in a trap".

The jury of six men and six women took nine hours and 36 minutes to return the guilty verdicts after the judge had told them he would accept majority verdicts on the remaining charges.

Martin was jailed for life for the murder of Barras, with 10 years to run concurrently for the wounding offence and a further 12 months for possession of an illegal firearm.

Martin's actions were given support after the verdict by chocolate heir Sir Peter Cadbury, who told the BBC it was legitimate for a householder to use force against an intruder "if the householder himself feels threatened".


He told BBC Two's Newsnight programme: "A lot of my friends sleep with loaded guns under their beds and I don't think they can be criticised for doing that, because if they ring the police, it will be 35 to 40 minutes before a car gets there.

"I have had a loaded gun by my bed for the last 40 years, but in July last year, when a burglar took every piece of jewellery my wife had and my wallet and a lot else, he took the gun too."

He added that he had now armed himself with a crossbow instead, and said he would not hestitate to use it if a burglar broke in late at night.

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19 Apr 00 | UK
Crime in the countryside
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