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Tony Martin in conversation
Tony Martin
Tony martin talks to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Ray Clark
Rarely out of the news, Fenland farmer Tony Martin became the focus of huge national debate after shooting dead a teenager who had broken into his home in 1999.

He speaks to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about his life before and after that event.
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Tony Martin's case ignited an outcry in Britain over issues such as rural crime, and the rights to defend property.

Once again in the news, Martin has been questioned by police investigating the theft of license plates. He has not been charged with any offence and has been released on police bail.

On Friday 13th February, Tony Martin came in to talk to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Ray Clark, to tell us more about himself.

Ray Clark: Your case has touched a raw nerve with people across the country - why do you think your crime has captured the public's attention?

Tony Martin
Tony Martin arrives at the BBC Cambridgeshire studios

Tony Martin: I think there's an underground swell of indignation over what happened to me and how it turned out. There is something called common decency and this thing called 'political correctness', or as I see it, Gestapo socialism which Churchill was worried about - seems very much to be happening.

Certainly older people in their eighties, like my own mother, don't understand what's going on. I even talk to young people who have been brought up the old-fashioned way, and they don't understand what's going on, either.

My experience yesterday has shown me that the police and the ordinary man in the street are growing further apart.

Ray Clark: I'd like to find out a little bit more about you. In court, you were described as eccentric in the extreme. Is that a fair description?

Tony Martin: I have a friend who thinks I'm eccentric - perhaps because I see trees as romantic things, whereas he clips his. But then, he will survive in business. Romance is one thing; economics is quite another. I'm no more eccentric than anybody else. As someone said: "You do what you like, and you speak your mind." Well, people in this country had better realise that if you're not arrogant and speak your mind, then pretty soon, you won't have the opportunity to do so!

Ray Clark: We all have different lifestyles. It's been suggested that you sleep with your boots and your clothes on. Is this the case?

Tony Martin: When you get off your tractor at 2am, you're dirty, mucky and it's going to be light within a few hours, there are bonuses. You'll see the sun coming up. There's very little point in going to bed. I live a vicious circle, I do not like going to bed, and I do not like getting up. I wake up very early in the morning, but I just don't like to get up when it's dark.

Ray Clark: What about your farm? How big is it - how many fields have you got?

Tony Martin: Just a few.

Ray Clark: Have you been at Bleak House a lot recently?

Tony Martin: My family's been there since 1870. If you talk to estate agents, they'll tell you that the average person lives in a property for 20 years. I've actually lived there myself for 20 years. When I took the plaster off the walls, they were lined with newspaper, which made for very interesting reading. It seemed to me that what prevailed at that time was sheep farming, but by 1890, the first frozen sheep came to this country from New Zealand, and suddenly the market for sheep was finished in this country.

Ray Clark: What do you grow on your farm?

Tony Martin: I just grow wheat because I like cutting it.

Ray Clark
Ray Clark broadcasting

Ray Clark: You mention that you've taken plaster off the walls of your house. We've also heard stories about the internal decor of your house - do you have any plans for Bleak House?

Tony Martin: Well, I might finish the house off. My house is not derelict. As I've said before, that house is as good as the day it was built, there are no cracks in the walls anywhere. People still keep knocking wonderful houses down, but Bleak House is still there.

Ray Clark: How do you relax? Have you got a TV or computer?

Tony Martin: No, I haven't got a television. I've got a wind-up radio, but I just turn that on for however long it runs - whenever I get home.

Ray Clark: As a countryman, I'd suggest that you've had dealings in the past with travellers, as farmers in the Fens do. What sort of relationship did you have with them prior to 1999?

Tony Martin: Well, the only dealings I've ever had with travellers was back in the 60s when my mother, father and brother had a farm at Wisbech-St-Mary's; some of those people still live down by the railway line. But, a lot of the people you've got round today, they're not travellers, they're itinerants. I hate name-dropping, but once, when I was in Pentonville, we were discussing 'what is a traveller?' I myself spent five years of my life living in a car, so surely that makes me a traveller?

You know, we've had all this stuff from the Norfolk police about these people who broke in being travellers, and that's debatable. I asked some travellers why they didn't come forward to speak for me, as I said, I'd never done them any harm. They said, "Tony, they weren't travellers". There are travellers and there are itinerants.

Ray Clark: Prior to the events of 1999 had you felt threatened in your house? Had you had break-ins before?

Tony Martin: I had break-ins about 20 years ago when my aunt moved out, and there are always people poking around, who get tractor batteries and the like. But, you just don't worry about that. A battery could be that old, they could be doing you a favour!

But, it got around that I'd had this thrombosis and I wasn't very well. And, because I'm grey and thin on top, I think somebody thought there was just some old man in the house, so they thought they'd get in, and they did. There's nothing you can do. If someone wants to break into your house when you're in there... They said they didn't know I was in there. But they did.

Ray Clark: Let's take you to August 1999. What do you remember of the events of that night?

Tony Martin
Tony Martin at BBC Cambridgeshire

Tony Martin: Everything that happened was so simple. It was so dark at the time. There was a hell of a lot of noise. I don't think people want to hear me going through the case again, otherwise we're going to be here until kingdom come! It's like when one of those giant 100 foot waves hits you; basically there's nothing you can do. It just sweeps you away.

Ray Clark: How were you treated throughout by the police?

Tony Martin: You just go through procedure, don't you?

Ray Clark: When you first had dealings with the police in the follow-up to this, what was their reaction to the whole thing?

Tony Martin: There is no communication with the police anymore. They would dispute that. They always do. They're very good at it. But the reality is, the ordinary man in the street who's had similar experiences - they know where the true story's coming from.

Ray Clark: When you first went to trial, you were found guilty of murder and subsequently that was reduced. What went through your mind when the jury gave that verdict?

Tony Martin: It didn't surprise me. I thought the first people to represent me were a bunch of charlatans, but they were initially right. They said what was happening was highly prejudicial and they were right, but they didn't know how to handle it; I'd actually questioned the legal person, but I'd shut down, because people would say: "Oh, you know, he's a know-all", so at this time in my life, to have a murder charge - there's only one charge worse than that, and that's treason. I'm old-fashioned, but your head's on the chopping block, isn't it?

It's very strange how they came to the verdict they did. One minute they weren't going to have you for one thing, and they came in and wanted a manslaughter charge. I've never really fully got into it, but the judge said, "No this isn't a manslaughter charge," so they came back, and they decided I was a murderer.

There was an awful lot of stuff that was hidden up. Evidence which is there if anyone wants to get to it, but a lot of people don't want to talk about it - and then you've got the technicalities of the law. We're not living in a world today of premeditated malice aforethought. We're talking about intent. So, if you and I start to argue with each other and one of us moved forward and then one of us dies, that is intent. And that intent is murder in this day and age.

When I've got the time I will get all the things together and then people will have a proper understanding of my case. It's a can of worms. What it's actually done is open up Pandora's Box.

Ray Clark: Do you believe in capital punishment?

Tony Martin: Yes, I do actually.

Ray Clark: After that initial trial, you could have been facing death, couldn't you?

Tony Martin: I could, but I don't think in the days of capital punishment I would have been charged in the first place. And I think if the people had really taken it seriously that a man is going to hang, then I think they would have gone down a different road.

Ray Clark: How were you treated in prison - by the prison officers and other prisoners?

Tony Martin: I think the same as everybody else. Basically, behave yourself, keep your head down. I think the important thing is to be yourself. I think people appreciate that more than anything. You know with a lot of the prison officers, when they were leaving or retiring, they would come into the cell, shut the door, shake my hand, and off they'd walk.

Ray Clark: There was a big Tony Martin Fighting Fund set up by many of your supporters. How did you feel when you heard about that?

Tony Martin: I was very appreciative of it. I can only speak highly of it, but actually there was no need for a lot of this money to be raised. People are very much deceived - you are entitled to proper legal representation and there is money there. In actual fact, I've learned with my case that the legal profession have a responsibility. They should have ensured that I had a proper legal defence and I did not. The first people I had were glorified estate agents.

Ray Clark: How did you feel after the appeal?

Tony Martin: Well, it would have been nice to have gone for a retrial. And I would like to have a word with Lord Woolf as to how he came to the decision he did. He may be a man of wisdom; I don't really know.

Ray Clark: When it was time for you to come out of prison, was it ever suggested that you should take on another identity or move to another part of the world?

Tony Martin: Yes, it's quite alarming really, but the police had come to ask me, but I like my house, I like the garden, and I have many happy memories. I've put a lot of different bulbs into that garden and I've opened up the old orchard which was planted before the First World War.

Ray Clark: Let me take you back to the evening that started all of this. What were you thinking when you fired off that gun?

Tony Martin: It's very difficult really. I couldn't understand why they were in the house. I had a guess there were maybe three or four of them. There seemed to be a hell of a noise.

Ray Clark: Wouldn't it have been wiser to fire up into the air rather than where the noise was coming from?

Tony Martin: It doesn't work like that - ask the experts. I didn't want to fire the gun, but I wasn't going to go downstairs without the gun. I even had a torch with me, but that didn't work; but they had one and theirs did work. And it's a terrifying experience to have a torch upon you, but as everybody says, they shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Ray Clark: Were you waiting for them?

Tony Martin: No - I've heard this so many times, but it's no good talking about it. It's a red herring, because people make up their own minds.

Ray Clark: Have you ever thought that you were guilty?

Tony Martin: No, never.

Ray Clark: Have you cried?

Tony Martin: [long pause] I'm a very emotional man. I can be slightly lachrymose, but if you're talking about crying about what happened that night, then no. I wouldn't cry about that. If you're asking me to be responsible for the actions of others, then that's the worst form of anarchy I know.

Ray Clark: Do you regret what happened that night?

Tony Martin: No. You're not listening to me. I can't be responsible for the actions of other people. Roy Hattersley starts blabbering on about people's lives being worth more than property. But it was nothing to do with property; it was to do with me. He seemed to forget that there was actually a person living in the house.

Ray Clark: How do you think the law should be changed?

Tony Martin: Well, the law says you can protect yourself, but don't you believe it! When that person does come into your house you've got double jeopardy. You are very highly jeopardised, and he's jeopardising himself as well.

Ray Clark: What would you recommend people should do in the same position?

Tony Martin: The answer is, you don't know what you're going to do, and they should bring out a law that protects people from being terrorised.

Ray Clark: You're not living in Bleak House at the moment, but do you intend to go back there?

Tony Martin: Yes, indeed I do. I think looking forward in anticipation is a good thing. I'm very behind with my farm work, but later in the year I want to get back on my land.

Ray Clark: This book that's due out -Tony Martin: Right to Kill, by John McVicar - I've heard stories that you're distancing yourself from that.

Tony Martin: I never had anything to do with that from the start. I said I wouldn't write a book and I thought the title was crass and deplorable.

Ray Clark: What of today and the future - do you feel threatened?

Tony Martin: No more than anybody else. Personally, I'm just a farmer. I have plenty of friends - I just wish I had more time to see them, but I'm a very busy man.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the BBC.

The BBC would like to make it clear that Tony Martin was not paid for this interview.

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