First look at Channel 4 drama which Norfolk farmer Tony Martin helped make about his controversial case

PUBLISHED: 12:32 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:17 12 November 2018

Tony Martin, played by Steve Pemberton (C) Channel 4

Tony Martin, played by Steve Pemberton (C) Channel 4

Laura Radford. Channel 4 images must not be altered or manipulated in any way. This picture may be used solely for Channel 4 pro

“He comes out with an awful lot of stuff about his past, his childhood, and just how vulnerable and emotional he was,” actor Steve Pemberton reveals what Norfolk farmer Tony Martin says in new Channel 4 drama about the case that divided the nation.

The Interrogation of Tony Martin  (C) Channel 4The Interrogation of Tony Martin (C) Channel 4

It is almost 20 years since Norfolk farmer Tony Martin was sentenced to life in prison after shooting 16-year-old burglar Fred Barras as he fled from Martin’s farmhouse in Emneth.

The case captivated the nation, dividing opinion between those who believed Martin had acted reasonably and those who did not, those who thought Martin a dangerous vigilante and those who believed him to be a vulnerable man trying to protect himself.

This programme, which will air on Channel 4 on November 18 at 9pm, recreates the three days of interviews the police conducted with Martin (played by The League of Gentleman’s Steve Pemberton) following his arrest for murder, recreated verbatim from the original transcripts.

It is, quite literally, Tony Martin’s story in Tony Martin’s words.

The Interrogation of Tony Martin  (C) Channel 4The Interrogation of Tony Martin (C) Channel 4

The story begins as Martin is arrested in his police cell and, in words we will all recognise, advised that he need not say anything – but Martin does have a great deal to say, and for the first time, we get to hear it.

Told in a an hour, the film is a transcript of what Martin told police and what they asked him: the only other additions are a flashback at the beginning and a real-life twist at the end.

Pemberton has said that he hopes the drama will get people talking about the Tony Martin case and the issues of reasonable force and encourage people to think what they would have done if put in the same situation.

“This is a fascinating story which divided public opinion at the time. Now we finally get to hear the account directly from Tony Martin,” he said.

The Interrogation of Tony Martin (C) Channel 4The Interrogation of Tony Martin (C) Channel 4

He told Broadcast magazine: “What’s striking is just how multifaceted he is. He comes out with an awful lot of stuff about his past, his childhood, and just how vulnerable and emotional he was. He is intelligent, well-spoken and articulate. He’s eccentric, that’s for sure, and some of his phraseology has been hard to learn, but also he’s very emotional.

“He tells it like he’s down the pub with his friends. He talks about the sounds that were made, what he could see at certain points; he recreates it for us. The police just sit back and listen to him – but then they turn it all back on him.”

Playing alongside Pemberton in the new drama will be Daniel Mays, who starred in Line of Duty and Born to Kill, and Stuart Graham, from The Fall, Thirteen, and Hunger.

“I still can’t make a judgement on whether or not he meant to kill a man that night,” admitted Mays.

Tony Martin, pictured on the 15th anniversary of the Bleak House shootings (C) Chris BishopTony Martin, pictured on the 15th anniversary of the Bleak House shootings (C) Chris Bishop

Executive producer Peter Beard said: “This is the missing part of an extraordinary story that captivated and divided the country. Finally, we will hear exactly what Tony Martin told detectives in the confines of a police interview room just hours after he was arrested. For the first time it’s his own account in his words.”

Martin shot Barras in the back and injured his accomplice, 29-year-old Brendan Fearon, after they broke into his home on August 20, 1999. Fearon and getaway driver Darren Bark, 33, admitted to conspiring to burgle his home and were sentenced to 36 and 30 months in prison, respectively.

Farmer Martin was charged with the murder of Barras and attempted murder of Fearon and was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of eight years, but in October 2001 an appeal was considered and his conviction was reduced to manslaughter.

Martin, who was released from prison in 2003, was involved in the making of the film and accessed the original transcripts of the interviews from a police FOI request.

EDP Front page 23 Aug 1999. Tony Martin (C) ArchantEDP Front page 23 Aug 1999. Tony Martin (C) Archant

In court, Martin’s defence team claimed the farmer had fired the three shots in fear, having claimed he’d been victim to a spate of similar burglaries since moving to remote Emneth. The prosecution, however, depicted Martin as an angry man with a vendetta against burglars and travellers.

Police search Bleak House, the property of Tony Martin, at Emneth Hungate. Picture: Matthew Usher.Police search Bleak House, the property of Tony Martin, at Emneth Hungate. Picture: Matthew Usher.

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