A British Falklands war hero, who was well known in South Africa as being part of the ‘Dagga Couple’, has been shot dead on his small holding in South Africa, bravely defending his partner from a gang of four armed robbers.
Retired Royal Navy sailor Julian Stobbs, 59, was shot a number of times in the head and chest after the armed gang broke into his home as they slept.
His long-term partner Myrtle Clarke, 53, was left unharmed after the noise of the gunshots alerted nearby neighbours and forced the gang to flee.
Despite the efforts of paramedics who rushed to remote Jazz Farm in Lanseria, north of Johannesburg, nothing could be done and the British expat was declared dead.
Julian – a hotelier’s son originally from Cumbria in the UK – and his partner had lived at the farm which had been used as a private members and social club since 1994.
A Neighbourhood Watch response team member said: “The gang broke into the farm and stole two phones and two laptops, and jewellery and other valuables.”
They then left the property, leaving the couple alive, said the team member… but then “for some reason they came back again, perhaps for the woman, and there was a struggle and the man was shot.
“His injuries from the bullets were bad and nothing could be done to save him. The woman was in a very bad state but fortunately had not been hurt,” he said.
The pair were internationally famous and known as “The Dagga Couple” after winning a 5-year battle to make the smoking of cannabis legal in South Africa.
They were busted in a police raid at their 6-acre farm in 2010 which was run as a private members club and “hippy retreat” where cannabis was openly smoked… but despite a five hour search in which Myrtle was strip-searched 3 times and Julian held at gunpoint, the police could not find a “superweed drug lab” they suspected existed.
They police did however find a quarter pound of cannabis – known as dagga in South Africa – and the couple was charged with drug dealing and faced a 10-year prison sentence.
But the retired air traffic controller, who served on the frigate HMS Penelope, and his partner refused to plead guilty and accept a lenient sentence offered by the police. Instead they set up a powerful non-profit making organisation called Fields of Green for ALL to fight through the courts to make the personal use of cannabis legal.
The high profile case was launched in 2013 and ended in 2018 with the law being changed to decriminalise the use, growing and possession of cannabis for personal use.
It was dubbed “The Trial of the Plant” and made the couple household names and their private club at popular Jazz Farm became well known for their cannabis bashes.
When Julian – known as Jules – left the Royal Navy in 1990, which he had joined straight from school, he travelled to Tokyo and played jazz on his guitar outside nightclubs.
He made so much money he flew to South Africa in 1993 where he met and fell in love with Myrtle Clarke and used his busking money to buy Jazz Farm outright.
They turned it into what locals called a “hippy commune” with live music and parties and a “sweat lodge” for large groups to “detox in” at regular events.
Julian and Myrtle became involved in the South African TV and film industry working on the local version of Big Brother and on the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda.
Both became art directors known as a “greensman” which was providing foliage both real and artificial such as plants, trees, flowers and vines for film sets.
Then came their arrest in 2010, and then their subsequent campaign to legalise personal dagga use went global with funds pouring in from around the world.
In 2017 the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town ruled that prohibiting the use and possession of cannabis in private was against the nation’s constitution.
The State appealed but in 2018 Julian won his case when the Constitutional Court upheld the ruling.
Neither he nor Myrtle were ever convicted of the 2010 charges, after arguing their arrests were illegal.
After Julian and Myrtle’s court battle, the smoking of cannabis for personal use was made fully legal in South Africa.
Fellow activist Gareth Prince said: “The murder of Julian is a huge loss to us all and I understand Myrtle is distraught and wants time alone to mourn his death.
“He will be remembered by so many people and is now a legend” he said.
The couple passionately believed that the use of cannabis and cannabis oil had a medicinal effect on users and that it should be legal to cultivate and use it.
The couple’s Facebook page The Dagga Couple said: “During the early hours of Friday, 3 July, 2020, an armed robbery took place at the property of Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke – best known as The Dagga Couple.
“The attackers entered the couple’s bedroom and shot and fatally wounded Jules Stobbs. Myrtle was physically left unharmed and the attackers made off with two cell phones and two laptops.
“The Cannabis community is mourning the passing of our hero. The family is requesting that the public respect their privacy and allow Myrtle some space during this difficult time.
“Thank you for the outpouring of love we have already received” it said.
The former British serviceman was an air traffic controller for a Lynx helicopter that was based on board frigate HMS Penelope during the Falklands War.
He held the rank of Leading Seaman (Radar) and served two tours of duty in the Falklands Islands and was awarded the South Atlantic Medal for his bravery in the conflict.
On June 13, 1982, he launched the Lynx chopper after Harrier jump jets had crippled an Argentinian fast patrol boat near Port Stanley to finish it off with a missile.
A former shipmate who served with him on both tours said: “He was the life and soul of the ship off-duty but a total professional when we were at battle stations.
“He was in control of the Lynx helicopter which was launched several times every day to attack the Argentinian forces and he was responsible for its safety at all times on deck and when in the air.
“It is a total shock to hear of his murder but no surprise to hear he died bravely,” he said.
Myrtle said after the drugs raid on their home in 2010: “We had a very heavy handed visit from the South African police acting on a tip off searching for a ‘drug lab’.
“What they found was a quiet middle aged couple in their pyjamas with some dagga and we were arrested after a 5-hour ordeal in our kitchen,” she said.
Julian said at the time: “I found myself with a revolver in my cheek and the more we thought about it the more we realised it was a gross invasion of our privacy.
“We were so indignant at our treatment at the hand of the police that we then sued seven government departments on charges of enacting unlawful laws.
“We have been full time drug policy activists since 2011 travelling nationally and internationally to give a voice to society’s concerns around drug policy reform.”
Head of Community Safety at AfriForum, Ian Cameron, said of Friday’s attack: “They stole everything in the house and it seems they left and then they came back again and went into the bedroom and shot and killed the husband”.
South African cannabis activist and businessman Tony Budden said: “This really is a tragedy for the cannabis culture in South Africa and is desperately sad.
“Jules worked tirelessly to bring awareness about the plant and its potential to the fore in order to create an open industry that benefitted all South Africans.
“We will use Jules’ passing to inspire us and to work even harder to see that his dreams don’t die and that his work on cannabis will continue through Myrtle.
“We will pick up his sword and make sure South Africa sees the “fields of green for all” that he envisioned and as a community we will work towards that.”
South African Police were unavailable to comment on the farm murder.
South Africa suffers some 21,000 murders a year – which averages out at 58 a day. The murders affect people on farms and in towns, in suburbs and townships.
The latest figures on farm attacks in the country from the South African Police Service state in 2017 there were 357 carried out with 74 farmers murdered.
Civil rights group AfriForum claim last year there were 552 farm attacks and 57 murders and say that the violence carried out is so violent it is “un-reportable”.
Cameron added: “The figures for this year show 156 farm attacks so far and 23 murders but during the Covid-19 lockdown the attacks stopped.
“Since we have gone down to Level 3 and with the reopening of the country it has become like open season on the farmers again and the attacks are flooding in.”
At another small holding in Weenen, KwaZulu-Natal, a gang of three men armed with knives and balaclavas broke into remote Ayors Farm on Saturday night.
Two of the men attacked the husband while the third dragged his wife a 26-year-old heavily pregnant mother-of-two, into a bathroom slitting her throat… killing her and the unborn baby.
The husband was rushed to hospital for treatment to serious knife wounds but their two children aged 4 and 8 were fortunately unharmed in the attack, but left severely traumatised.
Chris Pappas, the Democratic Alliance spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development for KZN province, said: “We are shocked and appalled at these brutal murders. The brutality of farm attacks as well as the vulnerability of farming and rural citizens should be a top priority for the Government however true to form they deny or ignore it is happening
“Why does the President of the country remain silent and continue to deny farm murders are happening. And why have these attacks and murders not been classified as hate crimes?”
On Friday night in Worcester, Western Province, well known Afrikaans singer Wynand Breedt, 45, was shot dead when he arrived back at his farm at 10.30pm as he parked his car.
His body was found beside the vehicle with a gunshot wound to the chest and he was pronounced dead.
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See Also: DA to refer Twitter posts glorifying farm murders to SAHRC