BREAKING NEWS - Tony Martin defends Salters Lode pensioner, 88, jailed for gun offence

PA file photo dated 19/08/2003 of Farmer Tony Martin who was arrested Thursday 12 February 2004 on suspicion of stealing number plates, it emerged tonight. Martin - jailed for shooting dead a teenage burglar at his remote farmhouse - was released on police bail. Cambridgeshire Police said a 59-year-old man from the Wisbech area had been arrested for suspected theft of number plates.  The man was arrested some time this afternoon, a spokeswoman said.  See PA Story POLICE Martin.  PA Photo PA*930736
PA file photo dated 19/08/2003 of Farmer Tony Martin who was arrested Thursday 12 February 2004 on suspicion of stealing number plates, it emerged tonight. Martin - jailed for shooting dead a teenage burglar at his remote farmhouse - was released on police bail. Cambridgeshire Police said a 59-year-old man from the Wisbech area had been arrested for suspected theft of number plates. The man was arrested some time this afternoon, a spokeswoman said. See PA Story POLICE Martin. PA Photo PA*930736

Controversial farmer Tony Martin has defended a pensioner locked up for having a loaded gun in his car because he was “tormented” by teenage yobs.

Martin - jailed for killing a burglar - has backed Roy Delph, 88, who stopped to talk to a police officer when they noticed the weapon which he thought was unloaded.

News. Tony Martin's farm, Bleak House Farm, Emneth Hungate, GV shots and his dog pictured looking out of the gap in the barn door, created when a neighbour's tractor was used to bend them open. Tony Martin was found inside.

News. Tony Martin's farm, Bleak House Farm, Emneth Hungate, GV shots and his dog pictured looking out of the gap in the barn door, created when a neighbour's tractor was used to bend them open. Tony Martin was found inside.

The frail pensioner was jailed for two years yesterday after pleading guilty to possession of a loaded firearm in a public place.

But Norwich Crown Court heard he had been “tormented” by youths in the area who allegedly damaged his property and killed his kitten.

Delph, who owned a firearm licence, maintained that he did not intend to cause fear of violence and occasionally used it to shoot vermin on his land.

He is now unable to look after his housebound wife Jacqueline, 73, who he has been married to for 48 years.

Today, Martin, 70, who served three years in jail for shooting two burglars and killing one, defended Delph and said he should not be in prison.

He said: “I think at 88 the man is entitled to a gun at his age if he is in fear of violence. He also had a gun licence.

“It is quite preposterous treating someone like that at 88 when they have an unblemished record.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Delph said she has been left alone and doesn’t know what to do.

She said: “Roy maintained that the gun was not loaded. They found the bullets but he said it wasn’t loaded, he didn’t know it was loaded.

“This has all been going on for a year, it’s been terrible. They’ve locked him up and thrown away the key and he’s 88.

“Before the sentence he said he wasn’t worried about it, but he knew he was going to prison.

“He shouldn’t have had the gun in the car, we know that, but we’ve had the problems at our home and he doesn’t deserve this.

“I don’t know what to do now, I don’t know how I go about appealing it or how to help him.”

Martin was jailed for nine years for murder which was later reduced to five years for manslaughter after he killed burglar Fred Barras, 16, on his property.

The farmer fired three shots in 1999 after finding Barras and Brendon Fearon, then 29, inside his remote Emneth home.

The case sparked fierce debate over whether homeowners should be given greater legal protection to defend their property.

Martin yesterday said: “There is no faith in the police now.

“It speaks volumes that they had the resources to arrest him but couldn’t stop the antisocial behaviour going on around him to protect him.

“He will be out in a year’s time but I don’t really see what is going to be achieved by putting him in prison. It’s not a deterrent. “I dare-say he was just using the gun to shoot pigeons on his land.

“I didn’t take my gun outside of my own property like he did, the burglars came to my own home, but I’ve no doubt he has been treated badly and let down badly.

“The argument is that it was in a public place, but it is not very likely someone would spot the gun and get in his car to use it.”

Delph, of Kemps Close, Salters Lode, is hard of hearing and walks with a stick.

He was on the A1122 in Downham Market last year when he was found with the gun.

Caroline Allison, mitigating, said that Delph posed no threat to the public and had never been in trouble with the law before.

She said that he had asked for the RSPCA to investigate the actions of the young people after his kitten died.

He worked for Great Ouse River Authority for 30 years as a construction foreman, and now suffers from ill-health including heart problems, arthritis and hernia.

Ms Allison said Delph looked after a number of animals including cats that he feeds daily on his land.

He held a firearms licence but since court proceedings began his guns, ammunition and licence had been withdrawn from him and he had to give up the 124 year-old shotgun he had owned for 50 years.

Ms Allison added that Delph only left his home and fields to fetch a morning paper, read it and feed the cats before returning home. The grandfather was conscripted to work in coal mines as a so-called Bevin Boy in the Second World War.

The offence to which Delph pleaded guilty carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison, but Judge Nicholas Coleman agreed to reduce this at an earlier hearing.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokeswoman said damage to property at Delph’s home was not reported to the force.