Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Tony Martin - why he should have stayed banged up

Much media attention has been focused on Mr. Tony Martin's release from jail. Mr. Martin, we may remember, was the Norfolk farmer who killed a 16 year old boy, Fred Barras, who he suspected of burgling him. Mr. Martin had before the crime given every sign of being obsessed with burglars, weapons and security measures, not to mention displaying an aggressive hostility to Gypsies (he had spoken of putting them in "one of his fields surrounded by barbed wire and machine-gunning them"). On the night, Barras and Fearon had indeed entered Martin's property, committing a crime, when Martin noticed their presence. He armed himself with a loaded 12-bore pump-action shotgun - a powerful and illegal weapon - and concealed himself in a position to watch the exits from the house. Barras and Fearon appear to have been disturbed, as they ran off empty-handed. Martin was at no time attacked or threatened, nor did he ever face either of the burglars. As the two men ran away, though, he opened fire at their backs from his concealment, killing Barras and severely wounding Fearon. He claimed self-defence, saying that they had shone a torch in his eyes as he lay in bed upstairs - but forensic evidence showed that the shots had been fired downstairs. How one can be attacked arse-first was not explained. Nor was why he left Barras' body lying where he fell for 15 hours.

It further emerged that Mr. Martin had a history of dangerous behaviour involving guns. He had at various times menaced a woman with a Luger before shooting a pigeon in front of her, threatened to kill various people, and smashed the windows out of his brother's house with a shotgun. Even more interestingly, he spent much time at the Swaffham estate of Andrew Fountaine, founder of the National Front and his uncle by marriage, where Mr. Fountaine held "Aryan summer camps" for members of fascist groupings from across Europe. All in all, a very fitting man for the tabloid press to fall in love with.

But why, when they found the lawsuit brought by Mr. Fearon against Mr. Martin so iniquitous, could the Daily Mirror bring itself to give Martin £100,000 for his crime - sorry, for his story? I recall David Mellor, disgraced Tory, radio presenter and self publicist, declaring with regard to Jamie Bulger's killers "It's a policy of kill a kid and get a house!". (I'm sure the parody of Private Eye's "Kill an Argie and win a Metro!" Falklands spoof was unconscious) Whatever you may think of Mellor's apparent belief that disturbed 11-year-olds were motivated by real estate, the fact remains that Tony Martin did just that. And the Mirror's given him, if not a house, then enough cash to do a really nice Changing Rooms job on his old place. Maybe they'll run a special edition with Charlie Dimmock saying where he should hang his rifle rack.

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