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EXCLUSIVE: TONY MARTIN'S STORY: I WAS VIOLATED; Burglary feels like your child was ripped away. You want to kill yourself I was so angry.. the police said I was just imagining all those break-ins.

Byline: AIDAN McGURRAN and JENNY JOHNSTON

TONY Martin revealed last night he told police: "If the burglars come back I'll shoot them" - three months before the fatal night at Bleak House.

The farmer believed his phone call would mean they would send officers to his home to investigate a break-in - the second that year.

He told the Daily Mirror: "After the second break-in I rang the police and said, 'If they come back I'll shoot them'.

"The reason I said this - and it was a dangerous thing to say - was because I hoped it would make them protect me, provoke a response, spur them on to do something.

"Someone told me once that if you mention a gun then you get an armed response unit, all sorts of things. I didn't mean it but people say all sorts of things to spur people on if you can't do it any other way.

"The police should have checked. They would have found out I didn't have a gun licence. They would have thought, 'This man's had his gun licence taken away', and they'd have been down there like a rocket. But they didn't do their groundwork ... they thought it was all a figment of my imagination.

"They offered to send one officer but I said I wasn't bothered and I said no. But after that night I slept out in the garage."

Martin became more anguished as he talked about the pain of being burgled.

"It is like walking into a black hole," he said. "No, that's not enough. It is like being hit over the head. Yes, being hit over the head, even if you haven't been physically touched. You are reeling. You see stars and lights.

"You feel ... what do you feel? You know what a woman feels like when she has a child ripped from her? Well, it is like that. You want to disappear off the planet. You want to hang yourself." He paused, aware of how melodramatic this must sound.

"You must think this is rather too vivid," he said apologetically. "But I felt that. No one will understand that unless they have had the same thing happen to them. No one can understand what it does to you."

We were discussing a burglary that happened in May 1999 - three months before the one for which Martin would become famous.

It stood out from the catalogue of petty pilferings he detailed - a battery charger or a chainsaw here, some old slates from an outhouse there - because it involved stealing his personal effects.

"They took an antique chest of drawers," he said. "But it wasn't that. It was the personal things. My things. My toys.

"There was a little Cutty Sark, a miniature Mercedes, a Jaguar, photographs. Well, you can't replace photographs, can you? Your life is in photographs.

"Everybody has video cameras and, what do you call them, DVDs these days. They go round the world on holiday collecting memories on those. Well, I only had photographs."

Martin got some of his photos back but it was a bitter-sweet experience - a neighbour found them, sodden and mangled, in a field.

HE became upset describing them. "There was one of Uncle Arthur and Auntie Gladys together, another of Arthur in his riding breeches and one of him in uniform. All soldiers got pictures like that.

"The first one was in a pretty little frame. The picture had been cut to fit. It was only a cheap frame but that's not really the point, is it? There were tapes too. Obviously those scum hadn't wanted the tapes but they meant something to me. When I'd been off around the world on my travels as a young man I'd sent Father tapes back. They'd just been dumped. Getting them all back was, well, it was wonderful but awful too.

"It just reminded me of how little someone else thought of my life. How little respect they had.

"How could we get to such a point when someone simply doesn't care about other people's belongings? I don't understand it.

"If those people had been really desperate I would have understood that. If they'd come banging on my door looking for money I would have given them a job. But they didn't. They just took. They took, took, took and they were able to do it."

Whatever you feel about what Tony Martin did you cannot help feel some sympathy for him when he goes over in detail, the ordeal he suffered at the hands of intruders.

He had two break-ins 20 years ago, another in early 1999, where a valuable clock was taken. At the time it did not seem like much. "I saw a bit of light and I thought, 'There used to be a clock there'. I stood back and stared at the space. I didn't report it because I didn't know what the police could do about it."

There was another in May that year - they took a table, a small chest and a bureau. So personal was this loss and so traumatised was Martin that he slept in the garage that night rather than risk staying in his home.

"They pushed the front double doors in. I did tell the police as soon as I came home.

"It was about midnight. Whether they were going through a shift change I don't know but it wasn't top of their priorities. Lack of resources, lack of interest, it doesn't matter. They did ask if I wanted a policeman but I didn't see the point. I said no. Then I said the thing about shooting them." His frustration had reached breaking point. "It got to the point where it was just normal.

"Have you had a break-in?" he asked, his tone pleading. "You won't be able to understand a word I am saying unless you have.

"There were always people hanging around. I'd be able to see on the gravel that someone had been there.

"It got to the stage where I wondered if it was worth taking any measures. If you lock up all your farm equipment, well, they just smash the doors down. They'd demolish the whole place - and that would cost more to replace than the original stuff." As was stated at his trial, he became so convinced that he and his property were under constant threat that he took bizarre measures to protect both.

He virtually lived in his bedroom, moving all his valuables and most of his furniture to the upstairs of his remote Victorian home.

There were claims that he was so convinced that he was a sitting target that he booby-trapped the staircase so going up it was dangerous, if not virtually impossible, without a ladder. Martin denied this, claiming he had simply started to move the staircase and not finished the job.

The burglaries affected him deeply. But what also becomes clear is how angry he became about his own inability to do anything about such acts. "I tried everything," he said. "I parked an old car against the garage so they couldn't break in there. I took all the steps I could.

I TRIED not to leave the house but you can't do that, can you? Then I thought it would be better if I wasn't there - I was scared. But that isn't a way to live.

"At first I wouldn't bother the police with all the little stuff. When you lost a battery or something trivial like that, what would be the point of calling the police? They couldn't do anything about it.

"Or even if they were prepared to come out and take a statement, when would that be? Today? Tomorrow? A week on Tuesday? I was so angry when a policeman said these break-ins were a figment of my imagination. I didn't imagine all this. How could anyone do that? Even when I did report things to the police, nothing was done. You have to have evidence, you see, even when you can give them names.

"It builds up. You get burgled, you get afraid of what will happen next. It is a bit of machinery, then it is your furniture. Then what? I did start to fear for myself. Yes I did. I started to remember what had happened to Uncle Arthur 20 years before.

"When he lived in Bleak House someone bashed him over the head during a robbery and he was tied up. He was never really the same again. He went downhill. He got Parkinson's Disease and I now wonder if they were connected. Ten years later he died.

"To be honest I'd never thought much about Uncle Arthur's experience until these things started piling up. Then I got scared. If that had happened to him, what would stop it happening to me?

"What is that quote from the Bible: 'The thief cometh but to steal, kill and destroy'?

"I was terrified. No one seemed to be able to help me. The police couldn't. I couldn't help myself. Where on earth was this all going to end?"

Words and pictures MGN Ltd

CAPTION(S):

TARGETED: Tony Martin's remote farmhouse was repeatedly broken into by burglars; ON PATROL: Police are now protecting the farm where Tony Martin, left, still lives; Picture: ROGER ALLEN
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 30, 2003
Words:1549
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