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Did Tony Martin Go to Prison?

Tony Martin was a British farmer who fatally shot a burglar in 1999. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, sparking controversy over the rights of homeowners to defend their properties. This article looks at Martin’s journey through the criminal justice system and his incarceration.

Tony Martin’s Background Before the Shooting

Tony Martin was an eccentric recluse living in a rundown manor house:

  • He was born in 1944 in Cambridgeshire, England and left school at 15.
  • Martin took over the dilapidated Bleak House farm from his family in 1984.
  • He had no electricity or running water and lived in squalor surrounded by junk.
  • Locals considered him peculiar and he had little contact with the outside world.
  • His home was frequently targeted by burglars and thieves over the years.

Martin’s bleak existence on the decaying farm later became infamous across Britain.

The Burglary and Shooting in August 1999

On a fateful night in 1999, Tony Martin fatally confronted two intruders:

  • On August 20th, career criminals Fred Barras, 16, and Brendon Fearon, 29, broke in to steal antiques from Bleak House.
  • Martin shot Barras in the dark with an illegal pump-action shotgun and wounded Fearon.
  • Barras fled wounded 300 yards before dying. Martin shot him again as he tried to escape.
  • Fearon managed to flee the property despite gunshot injuries to his legs.
  • Martin alerted police to the shooting, claiming it was self-defense against the burglars.
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The violent confrontation made headlines as details emerged about the notorious recluse.

Martin’s Murder Trial and Sentence in 2000

After an emotional media frenzy, Tony Martin’s murder trial reached its conclusion:

  • He was charged with murder and wounding with intent over the shootings.
  • At Norwich Crown Court in April 2000, he was found guilty on both counts.
  • The jury rejected Martin’s claims he acted in self-defense during the break-in.
  • He received life imprisonment for the murder charge, with a recommended minimum 10 year term.
  • For wounding Fearon, he received a concurrent 3 year sentence.
  • After sentencing, Martin was taken to Highpoint Prison to begin his life term behind bars.

The case ignited lively debate about excessive force against intruders.

Reaction to Martin’s Prison Sentence

The severity of Tony Martin’s punishment for defending his home caused controversy:

  • Supporters argued Martin was vulnerable and frightened when confronting the burglars.
  • They claimed his isolated rural location justified using force against intruders.
  • Critics countered he used grossly disproportionate force in the shootings.
  • There was also outrage Martin received a harsher term than Fearon, who was freed in 2003.
  • Over 30,000 signatures petitioned for Martin’s sentence to be reduced in 2001.
  • His case became a touchstone issue around homeowners’ rights amidst rural crime waves.

The complex case revealed the divide in public attitudes to police powers and self-defense laws.

Martin’s Time Spent in Prison

Martin’s conviction saw him enter the prison system he desperately sought to avoid:

  • He began his life term at Highpoint Prison but found conditions harsh as an ex-farmer.
  • In 2001 he was transferred to Wayland Prison in Norfolk, closer to family.
  • Here he could work on the prison farm which was better suited to his background.
  • Martin’s mental health deteriorated being confined and he made several suicide attempts.
  • He remained unrepentant, granting no interviews or apologies over the years behind bars.
  • After serving 3 years, his sentenced was reduced to 5 years on appeal on grounds of diminished responsibility.
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For a reclusive individual, adapting to prison life with other inmates took an immense toll.

Release from Prison and Later Years

Tony Martin struggled to settle back into society after his incarceration:

  • He was released in 2003 after serving 2/3 of his 5 year term under standard UK rules.
  • Returning to his derelict Bleak House, he vowed to never again live in fear.
  • Martin struggled with depression and PTSD from his experiences.
  • Fearing revenge attacks, he eventually moved to a secret location in Norfolk in 2008.
  • Martin rarely granted media interviews, turning down most requests.
  • He died aged 78 in July 2021 after years battling ill health.

His confrontational ordeal forever changed him from the eccentric farmer he had been before.


In summary, Tony Martin did serve over 3 years in prison from 2000-2003 after fatally shooting a burglar at his home. His initial life sentence for murder caused controversy, highlighting arguments around self-defense and firearms ownership rights. His decline behind bars after decades in reclusive isolation demonstrated the trauma imprisonment could inflict on problematic individuals ill-equipped to handle it. Martin’s legacy remains the polarized debate his case provoked around crime and punishment.

Key Points:

  • Tony Martin shot dead a burglar at his home in 1999.
  • In 2000 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and wounding.
  • He served just over 3 years before his sentence was reduced.
  • Martin spent time at Highpoint and Wayland Prisons.
  • His case ignited debate about self-defense against intruders.
  • After release he struggled with depression and his notoriety.


How long was Tony Martin in prison for?

He served over 3 years from 2000-2003. His original life sentence for murder was reduced to 5 years on appeal.

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What sentence did Tony Martin receive?

He was initially given life imprisonment for murder plus 3 years for wounding. This was reduced to 5 years for murder and a concurrent 3 years.

Where was Tony Martin imprisoned?

He was first held at Highpoint Prison but was then transferred to Wayland Prison in Norfolk in 2001.

When was Tony Martin released from prison?

Martin was freed in 2003 after serving two-thirds of his 5 year sentence, the standard eligibility for release under UK law.

Did Tony Martin show remorse for the shooting?

No, Martin remained unrepentant and never apologized for the fatal shooting during his imprisonment or after his release.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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