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The Sixth Commandment: What happened to Ben Field, the killer at the centre of the BBC One drama?

How was Field caught and what was revealed when he was on trial?

Ellie Harrison
Tuesday 18 July 2023 10:18 BST
The Sixth Commandment trailer

BBC One’s latest true-crime drama,The Sixth Commandment, tells the chilling true story of how a young student called Ben Field gaslit and abused two neighbours, and murdered one.

The show, which is available in full on BBC iPlayer now, stars Timothy Spall as Peter Farquhar, a teacher and academic who in the early 2010s was duped into thinking Field (played by Éanna Hardwicke) was in love with him.

Field moved in with Farquhar, who had been suppressing his sexuality for years, and the pair became “betrothed”, with Field convincing Farquhar to make him the sole beneficiary of his will.

Unbeknownst to Farquhar, Field began drugging him with hallucinogens. Later, in court, Oliver Saxby QC, the lead prosecutor, told a jury that Farquhar had “became a dribbling shambles of his former self” because of the drugs.

Field eventually killed 69-year-old Farquhar in 2015, making it look like he had drunk himself to death.

After Farquhar died, Field targeted his neighbour, retired headteacher Ann Moore-Martin (Anne Reid), who he also tricked into a relationship.

He wrote messages on her mirror, which he told her were from God, telling her to leave everything to Field.

Moore-Martin’s niece became suspicious about the new man in her aunt’s life, and it was her decision to alert the police, a move that eventually led to Field being caught for Farquhar’s murder.

Moore-Martin later died of natural causes in 2017, aged 83, but Field admitted to defrauding her in her final years.

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So what happened to Field?

Former church warden Field was arrested in 2018, and charged with murder, fraud, conspiracy to murder, and attempted murder.

At Oxford Crown Court in 2019, showing no remorse, the 28-year-old admitted to entering into fake relationships with both Farquhar and Moore-Martin in order to defraud them, but denied killing or planning to kill them.

Timothy Spall in ‘The Sixth Commandment’ (BBC/Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle)

After a three-month trial in which the jury were shown how Field documented his abuse in poetry, journals and videos, Field was ultimately found guilty of murdering Farquhar, cleared of a charge of conspiracy to murder and also acquitted of attempted murder relating to Moore-Martin.

During the trial, Field confessed he had an “interest in the extremes of death and the idea of killing” and collected books and essays about dying.

He had listed ways he could kill Moore-Martin in a diary, such as: “Heart attack – electrical device, dehydration, stair, sex?, in the bath? … OD on her prescriptions … church tower … sleep apnoea.”

Hardwicke and Reid as Field and Moore-Martin in ‘The Sixth Commandment’ (BBC/Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle)

He was given a life sentence of 36 years, and he has lost appeals against the conviction on two occasions.

At the trial, two psychiatrists said Field was either suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder or a psychopathic personality disorder.

Sentencing Field, Mr Justice Sweeney said that he “lived by deception and deceit and had been a well-practised and able liar”.

He added: “You have very little understanding of your own inner world, leading to your need to deceive and destroy others. You also kept notes and journals about what you were planning and what you had done, and you did so for the pleasure that gave you.”

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