As Tony Martin is released on bail, did a comment to national newspaper reporter about gun possession lead to his arrest?

Tony Martin

Tony Martin - Credit: Archant

Did a comment made by farmer Tony Martin to a national newspaper reporter that he still kept a gun, lead to his arrest yesterday?

That was the growing speculation today after Mr Martin was released on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of possessing an illegal firearm.

Police officers arrested Mr Martin yesterday morning and police spent the day at his derelict, detached home in Emneth Hungate, near Wisbech.

Mr Martin, 71, served three years in prison for shooting dead Fred Barras, 16, at his home in 1999. He was initially found guilty of murder but this was reduced to manslaughter on appeal.

According to a national newspaper, Mr Martin was arrested after allegedly claiming he still kept a weapon to a reporter.

Mr Martin was commenting on the shooting at an Essex care home where pensioner Rita King, 81, was allegedly killed by her husband, during which he allegedly claimed that “Britain was awash with illegally held firearms”.

Mr Martin insisted that police were in denial at the scale of illegally held guns in Britain.

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In a statement last night, Norfolk police said: “A 71-year-old man arrested in connection with a planned police operation at a property in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk, has been released on bail pending further inquiries. Officers have this evening finished their search of the address and the man, who was arrested on suspicion of possession of an illegal firearm, has been released on police bail until late February 2016.’’

People in Emneth Hungate said yesterday that there was some sympathy for Mr Martin in the village, and expressed shock at the huge police presence.

One man, who did not wish to be named, said: “I saw three armed police officers at the corner of Hungate Road.

“There were transit vans, forensic teams, unmarked police cars, and a helicopter overhead.’’

He said he did not know Mr Martin well, but spoke to him when he saw him. “He keeps himself to himself,” he added.

Another neighbour said: “I get on well with Tony, although I don’t have a lot to do with him.’’

Another neighbour said he also saw armed police officers near his home.’’

“Tony’s always about,” he said. “He often comes in the yard and has a chat. His land is now contracted out. I saw him last about two days ago, when he was fine.’’

Mr Martin was living alone at his farmhouse in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk, nicknamed Bleak House, when he caught Brendon Fearon, then 29, and Mr Barras, 16, inside.

He fired his shotgun three times towards the intruders, killing Barras.

The case provoked a national debate about the measures homeowners can take to defend their property.

Since being released from prison, Mr Martin is understood to have spent some of his time living on the grounds of the property.

In 2013 he said he had once again confronted a burglar at the property.

He said he caught the would-be burglar while checking on an outbuilding. They drove off when he confronted him and he decided not to attempt to stop him, adding: “I couldn’t face going through all that again.”

He said: “I wished I had but, after everything I’ve been through in the past, I just couldn’t face all that hassle again.

“It isn’t the first time it’s happened since I’ve been out of prison - it’s happened two or three times.

“I haven’t changed my views about what happened in 1999 but the whole experience has made me lose faith in the system and I didn’t want to be made out as the criminal again.”

Speaking at the time, Norfolk Police confirmed the incident had been reported to officers but no suspect was ever caught.