RADIO TIMES on The Interrogation of Tony Martin

When is The Interrogation on TV? What is Channel 4’s new true crime drama about, and who is Tony Martin?

Tony Martin shot dead a burglar at his Norfolk farmhouse – his subsequent murder trial captivated the nation, and now Steve Pemberton is set to star in an adaptation of the story

By Kimberly Bond

In 1999, Tony Martin was sentenced to life in prison when he shot dead 16-year-old burglar Fred Barras, after Barras had broken into his farmhouse.

The case captivated the nation at the time, after Martin claimed he had used reasonable force to protect himself and his property.

Now, the story behind Tony Martin’s conviction and subsequent appeal will be brought to life in a one-off factual drama on Channel 4, with the working title The Interrogation.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Channel 4 drama.

When does The Interrogation start on Channel 4?

No concrete air date has been released by Channel 4 as of yet. The show was initially commissioned by the channel in April 2018, and was initially expected to air in autumn 2018.

The one-off factual drama has a runtime of 60 minutes, and will explore the police questioning Martin was subjected to following his arrest.

What is the series about?

Using transcripts provided by Martin himself, Channel 4 bosses have explained the factual drama will focus on the three days following the fatal shooting, using the previously unseen transcripts to give the public a fresh look at the case.

On 20th August 1999, Martin turned a gun on two burglars who had broken into his Norfolk farmhouse, nicknamed Bleak House.

While Brendan Fearon, 29, managed to escape with gunshot wounds, teenager Fred Barras died at the scene.

What sparked national interest in the story was the definition of “reasonable force” in English law, sparking a debate about homeowners’ rights to defend their property. It was down to the jury to decide whether Martin’s use of his firearm was excessive.

Martin’s defence team argued that Martin had fired the three shots in fear, having claimed he had been victim to a spate of burglaries since he moved there in 1980, and having had £6000 of furniture stolen.

Meanwhile, the prosecution depicted Martin as an angry man with violent views about burglars and travellers, claiming Martin fired the deadly shots as revenge for his previous burglaries.

Why is Channel 4 adapting the crime story for TV?

Discussing the decision why they chose to create the gritty and hard-hitting drama, executive producer Peter Beard said that it was the addition of the transcripts which convinced him to make the drama.

“This is the missing part of an extraordinary story that captivated and divided the country,” he said. “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.”

Acting head of specialist Factual Rob Coldstream added, “This thought provoking film sheds new light onto the Tony Martin story, illuminating an issue that touched a raw public nerve at the time and continues to do so today.”

Who plays Tony Martin in The Interrogation?

BAFTA-winning actor Steve Pemberton, who can include Happy Valley and Whitechapel in his varied list of drama credits as well as hit comedies Inside No 9 and The League of Gentlemen, has been cast as Tony Martin.

Explaining why he took on the role, the 51 year old said, “This is a fascinating story which divided public opinion at the time – and is currently even more poignant. Now we finally get to hear the account directly from Tony Martin, I’m looking forward to being part of such a ground-breaking drama.”

Alongside Pemberton, The Interrogation’s star-studded cast also includes Line of Duty star Daniel Mays as policeman DC Peters, while Irish actor Stuart Graham, who viewers may recognise from BBC2’s The Fall, stars as DS Newton.

What’s happened to Tony Martin?

Martin successfully appealed his murder conviction in 2001: his murder sentence was reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, after a psychiatrist said he had paranoid personality disorder.

He served a further three years in prison before being released.

Having moved from ‘Bleak House’, the former farmer said in 2011 that he confronted another burglar on his property near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire – but his previous experiences made him reconsider.

Martin explained, “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.”

Interest in Martin was reignited after a recent news story bore striking similarities to the 1999 case.

Pensioner Richard Osborn-Brooks was released without charge in April 2018 after stabbing a burglar with a screwdriver, having woke in the night to find two men in his home in Hither Green, London.

Victim Henry Vincent later died from his stab wounds.

Martin, now aged 74, himself called for Osborn-Brooks to be released without charge shortly before the CPS declared that there would be no further action in the case.

Kiera Godfrey