Brendon Fearon (born c. 1970) of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire was convicted for conspiring to burgle the home of farmer Tony Martin on 20 August 1999. His accomplice, 16-year-old Fred Barras, was fatally shot by Martin near his remote farmhouse in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk. Fearon, aged 29 at the time, was hospitalised with gunshot wounds to his legs.
Fearon, a career criminal and Irish traveller, had been convicted at that point of about thirty offences, starting with handling stolen goods in September 1986, for which he was fined £25, through theft, burglary, drugs, fraud and wounding, for which he received a one-year prison sentence, his third and at the time longest custodial sentence, in May 1997.
Other crimes included obtaining property by deception, criminal damage, failing to surrender to bail, attempted burglary, and theft from a vehicle.
Bleak House burglary
Fearon had planned to burgle Bleak House, belonging to Tony Martin, after he had heard fellow Irish travellers talking in a Newark pub two months earlier about the farm, which had been burgled several times. On 20 August, Fearon persuaded Darren Bark (then 33 years old), also from Newark-on-Trent, to drive Fred Barras and himself to the farm. Bark stayed in the car waiting in a lane, while Fearon and Barras entered the farmhouse. When confronted they attempted to flee through a window but were shot by Martin; Fearon in the leg and Barras in the back. Barras died at the site, but Fearon managed to escape and obtain medical assistance from a couple in a cottage nearby. Martin subsequently left the farm and spent the night at a friend's house.
On 10 January 2000 Fearon and Bark admitted to conspiring to burgle Martin's farmhouse. Fearon was sentenced to three years in prison and Bark to 30 months (with an additional 12 months arising from previous offences). Fearon was released on 10 August 2001.
In April of the same year Martin was convicted of murdering Barras, the charge was reduced to manslaughter, the sentence to 5 years, on appeal, due to diminished responsibility. Fearon was released after eighteen months, Martin after about three years, having been refused early parole.
During 2003, Fearon applied for, and received, an estimated £5,000 of legal aid to sue Martin for loss of earnings due to the injury he sustained. However, the case was thrown into doubt when photographs of Fearon cycling were published in The Sun showing Fearon's injuries were not as serious as had been claimed. Fearon later dropped the case when Martin agreed to drop a counter-claim.
In March 2005, the BBC was criticised for making a monetary payment, widely reported to be £4,500, to Fearon in return for an interview. The interview and information thus gathered was intended for a documentary being made about the case. The payment was justified by the BBC on the basis that Fearon was the only person who could provide specific information on what happened during the Tony Martin break-in. John Humphrys, while conducting an interview, pointed out on the Today programme that the Fearon's testimony was a matter of public record while Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, described the BBC payment as a "disgusting warping of our values". Brendon Fearon was also approached to appear in an episode of Real Crime ("A Shot in the Dark") shown on ITV in 2008. As in 2005 he demanded a fee but this time his request was declined and he did not appear.
Fearon was again jailed for 18 months on 6 February 2003 for dealing in heroin. Controversy was again provoked, in July 2003 when Fearon left Ranby prison after serving less than a third of his 18-month sentence - just days before Martin's release. The Home Secretary, David Blunkett requested an explanation from the head of the prison service.
On 2 September 2003 Fearon was arrested for taking a Toyota Land Cruiser on 24 August without the owner's consent. On 9 November 2003, he was found guilty of driving the vehicle without insurance and recalled to prison to serve the remainder of the preceding sentence.
In August 2005 Fearon was arrested with Dean Thompson, accused of drawing out £11,000 from a bank machine using stolen cash cards. Fearon was bailed to appear before magistrates in October.
In February 2006, Fearon was banned from two public houses in Newark. The Crown Court Judge called Fearon "a menace" and issued him with an 18-month community order for his part in causing a large disorder occurring at the said locations.
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