Maids Moreton murder: Church warden Ben Field jailed for life over killing of older lover

Baptist minister’s son preyed on 83-year-old woman after murdering first victim in Buckinghamshire village 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 18 October 2019 14:13 BST
Maids Moreton: Peter Farquhar filmed after being drugged by Ben Field

A church warden who murdered his elderly lover to benefit from his will has been jailed for life with a minimum of 36 years.

Ben Field, 28, killed 69-year-old university lecturer Peter Farquhar before preying on another elderly neighbour he had a relationship with.

Mr Farquhar died in October 2015 but it was not deemed suspicious until Ann Moore-Martin alerted police that Field was poisoning her shortly before her own death in May 2017.

Police said Field had drawn up a list of 100 other people he could “use” for accommodation or money, and fear he would have killed again.

Prosecutors said he had a “profound fascination in controlling and manipulating and humiliating and killing”, which was detailed in diaries and journals.

Sentencing Field at Oxford Crown Court on Friday, a judge said he had “lived by deception and deceit” for years and maintained relationships with girlfriends even while seducing Mr Farquhar and Ms Moore-Martin.

Mr Justice Sweeney said both victims were “lonely and craving for love and affection”, and were fooled into thinking Field truly loved them.

He told the defendant he “enjoyed the cruelty” of mentally torturing and drugging Mr Farquhar, giving him a psychoactive drug to humiliate him at the launch of one of his books at Stowe School.

The judge said Field murdered his first victim by covertly giving him flurazepam and making him drink strong whisky, adding: “I have no doubt that, if it was necessary, you then finished him off by suffocating him in a way that left no trace.”

Mr Justice Sweeney said Field then moved on to Ms Moore-Martin and used her loneliness, strong Catholic faith and love letters to manipulate her into changing her will after starting a sexual relationship.

The former headmistress triggered the police investigation that brought Field down by telling a friend he gave her “white powder” after being admitted to hospital, but later died of natural causes.

“Ms Moore-Martin was deeply affected by the realisation of what you had done to her,” the judge added. “I have no doubt that you are a dangerous offender.”

The court heard Field had a personality disorder including “a lack of empathy, a callous lack of concern for the feelings of others, and an incapacity to experience guilt”, but that it did not diminish his culpability.

Field attempted to portray Mr Farquhar, an eminent teacher and author, as an alcoholic in the hope his death would be attributed to natural causes after convincing him to change his will.

The pair entered into a relationship after meeting at the University of Buckingham, where Field was Mr Farquhar’s English student.

Oxford Crown Court heard that Field moved into Mr Farquhar’s home in the village of Maids Moreton in 2014 and in March of that year they underwent a “betrothal” ceremony at a church.

Peter Farqhuar (left) with his partner and killer Benjamin Field (Thames Valley Police/PA)

“It is one of the happiest moments of my life,” Mr Farquhar wrote in a journal. “Gone are the fears of dying alone.”

Less than two years later he was dead, murdered by Field after a campaign of psychological torture that aimed to convince Mr Farquhar he was losing his mind.

Field spiked his food and drink with neat alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs, while moving everyday objects around the house and “gaslighting” his victim into believing he had misplaced them or forgotten his own actions.

Mr Farquhar, a well-known academic and author who had taught at Stowe and Manchester Grammar School, had been “fit in mind and body”.

But the court heard how Field’s efforts caused “agony” for his victim, causing him to believe he could be a closet alcoholic or suffering from dementia.

Prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC said Field had hoped Mr Farquhar may kill himself, after making changes to his will meaning he would receive £20,000 and a life interest in his home.

Field placed a partly empty bottle of whisky and glass near his body and told paramedics he had “alcohol issues”, sparking a routine post-mortem finding death by “acute alcohol intoxication”.

It was not until a second post-mortem in 2017 that police discovered Mr Farquhar had been given a cocktail of sedatives over several months, and may have been smothered.

The death was revisited after Ms Moore-Martin said Field had been giving her “white powder”, and a solicitor became alarmed over plans to change her will.

The former Catholic school headteacher, 83, lived alone in Maids Moreton and entered a sexual relationship with Field before Mr Farquhar’s death.

The court heard that Field embarked on a campaign of “mirror writing” where he scrawled messages throughout her home claiming to be from God and encouraging her to make him a beneficiary of her will.

Maids Moreton: phone call recording of Moore-Martin telling her bank she wants to withdraw savings

Ms Moore-Martin suffered a seizure and was admitted to hospital in February 2017, later telling a friend she had been given “white powder” by Field to sleep better.

A police investigation started and Ms Moore-Martin went into a care home, where she later died from a stroke in May 2017.

Before her death, she told officers she changed her will because she thought she loved Field and “wanted to support him in all the ways I could”.

Field’s co-accused, 32-year-old magician Martyn Smith, was found not guilty of murder.

The pair were both cleared of a charge of conspiracy to murder Ms Moore-Martin, and Field was also acquitted of her attempted murder.

Field, a Baptist minister’s son, admitted fraudulently being in relationships with Mr Farquhar and Ms Moore-Martin as part of a plot to get them to change their wills, but denied any involvement in their deaths.

The defendant, of Wellingborough Road in Olney, previously pleaded guilty to defrauding Ms Moore-Martin of £4,000 to buy a car and £27,000 for a dialysis machine.

Field’s brother Tom, 24, a Cambridge University graduate, was cleared of a single charge of fraud.

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