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How church warden Ben Field, 28, set out to destroy elderly minds

Depravity of preacher’s son who plotted to profit from evil: How sadistic church warden Ben Field, 28, guilty of murdering university lecturer, 69, set out to destroy the minds of two elderly neighbours

  • Peter Farquhar spoke to his parish priest about fears there was evil in his home
  • Son of Baptist minister Ben Field was raised in the ‘backbone’ of community
  • He was a teenage Scrabble champion and classical guitarist before his degree 

A few months before his death, Peter Farquhar spoke to his parish priest about fears that had been plaguing him day and night. By then the 69-year-old’s health had deteriorated to the stage that he was at times rambling, incoherent and suffering from hallucinations.

He particularly dreaded the mornings when he would wake to find himself covered in bruises or with his prized possessions swept from the shelves and with no memory of what had happened. And so it was that in desperation the devout Christian turned to God for help.

‘Pray for me,’ he begged his vicar. ‘There is evil in my house.’ Mr Farquhar was right. But, tragically, he didn’t live long enough to discover the source of that evil – not some malign, supernatural force but a young man whom he had welcomed into both his life and home.

Peter Farquhar (right) spoke to his parish priest about fears that had been plaguing him day and night

The son of a Baptist minister and former Lib Dem councillor, Ben Field was raised in the Home Counties in a family described as the ‘backbone’ of both church and community. A teenage Scrabble champion and classical guitarist, after school he completed an English degree at university.

It was as an undergraduate that the then 20-year-old first set eyes on part-time lecturer Mr Farquhar. From that moment his fate was effectively sealed. Because Field had a project in mind – his ‘life’s work’, no less. And all he needed to execute it were suitable victims. In Mr Farquhar and his 83-year-old neighbour Anne Moore-Martin, he found two perfect candidates. Both were elderly and vulnerable to emotional manipulation. Crucially, they were also wealthy.

To access their money Field drew up a strategy that, to borrow Mr Farquhar’s own words, was pure evil. Having amused himself toying with the emotions of a string of middle-aged women who he was using for sex, Field pretended to be in love first with Mr Farquhar and then Miss Moore-Martin. He was sexually intimate with both, despite being 57 years younger than the spinster.

In Mr Farquhar and his 83-year-old neighbour Anne Moore-Martin (pictured), he found two perfect candidates

Their trust gained, he then set about breaking the pair by befuddling them with sinister mind games and secretly administering alcohol and drugs.

Behind their backs, Field recorded his true feelings towards them. Mr Farquhar was contemptuously dismissed as ‘a faggot’. As for Miss Moore-Martin he allegedly used his phone to take a picture of her performing a sex act on him, so that he could blackmail her with it in future if the need arose. His feelings towards her? ’Very close to indifference,’ he admitted.

Make no mistake, this wasn’t ‘just’ two pensioners being conned out of their life savings. Before they died, Field, a narcissist with a hugely over-inflated opinion of his own intellectual powers, tortured them, mentally and physically, tormenting them through their final days. In so controlling, manipulating and humiliating them, he derived his own twisted pleasure. ‘I am finding more joy in life now than ever before in my swift 23 years,’ he observed as he embarked on his sick project.

Caught, charged and now convicted, Field has never once shown a flicker of remorse for his behaviour. Had he not been caught, police are sure he would have targeted others.

When arrested, his list of potential future victims ran to 100 names, including his own parents and grandparents. In notebooks he kept he fantasised about a night-time murder rampage, predicting he could kill up to 50 people in a single killing spree.

‘Psychopath, sadist, sociopath are all words you can call Ben Field,’ said Mark Glover, the senior investigating officer with Thames Valley Police.

Caught, charged and now convicted, Field has never once shown a flicker of remorse for his behaviour. Had he not been caught, police are sure he would have targeted others. Pictured, a framed image of Field

‘He would have carried on if he had not been stopped.’

On the morning of October 26, 2015 cleaner Jane Suttill let herself into a three-bed detached house on Manor Park in Maids Moreton, a picturesque village on the outskirts of Buckingham.

In the sitting room, on the sofa, she found Mr Farquhar. He was clearly dead. By his side was a whisky bottle and on the floor an empty glass. Having first dialled 999 she then called Field. Who else? Because he wasn’t just Mr Farquhar’s carer, he was also his partner. In March the previous year the unlikely couple had pledged themselves to one another in a service of ‘commitment’ at a church in London.

‘Will you care for each other, comfort each other, honour and protect each other in sickness and in health?’ the pair were asked. Both responded in the affirmative. And Mr Farquhar meant it. For him the day was a dream come true.

‘It is one of the happiest moments of my life,’ he wrote in his journal. ‘Gone are the fears of dying alone.’ Cambridge-educated, Mr Farquhar had taught English at the private Manchester Grammar School before moving in 1983 to public school Stowe.

He retired in 2004 to pursue a career in writing and published four novels over the next decade. His first book, Between Boy and Man, featured a school chaplain struggling to reconcile his Christian faith with his gay impulses.

Like his fictitious character, Mr Farquhar was himself gay. For years he had struggled with his sexuality, fearing it incompatible with his religious beliefs. While sociable and out-going, friends noticed an inner loneliness about him, a yearning for a close companion to be intimate with.

Field sensed that weakness immediately. In a document unearthed on his computer by police, Field described how he viewed their developing relationship. Describing Mr Farquhar as a ‘virgin’ and a ‘closeted, Christian, homosexual, English-teaching pedant’, he wrote: ‘I first met Peter in my sixth term of university.

On the morning of October 26, 2015 cleaner Jane Suttill let herself into a three-bed detached house on Manor Park in Maids Moreton, a picturesque village on the outskirts of Buckingham. In the sitting room, on the sofa, she found Mr Farquhar

‘At the end of term, I called Peter and invited myself over. The reasons for this are manifold, but centre on career-minded avarice – I wanted to work at the university [where he was a guest lecturer], or at Stowe school [where he had been head of English for 21 years], etc. So I went over and was amusing and cheered the poor man up. I had, and still have, a very clear model of the relationship’s reciprocity or mutuality, which is vulgarly commercial: he gives me things, and he gets me for a length of time.’

Chatting online with a friend, he spelt out the arrangement even more crudely: ‘He and I have struck a deal which is I pay for nothing and will hang out with him until his eventual death win/win… I’m p [pretty] comfortable w/death.’ Field’s complete lack of empathy emerged early in his life. Giving evidence he told the court that all his close relationships, including with his family, were ‘coloured by deception by me’. ‘Absolutely everybody I’ve had any relationship with I have lied to’, he said, agreeing that he indulged in ‘serious deceit’ rather than minor lies. ‘I feel inadequate so it is more pleasant to pretend to not be myself.’

The middle of three children, he was close to his older sister and younger brother Tom, who appeared alongside him in the dock, jointly accused of defrauding Miss Moore-Martin. Field admitted that growing up the pair conspired with one another to cause mischief. ‘Me and my brother used to ask each other, “are you on manoeuvres” or say “I’m on manoeuvres today” which just meant, “I’m up to something, something devious is afoot”,’ Field revealed in an online chat recovered by police.

The family grew up in Market Harborough in Leicestershire, where father Ian, a carpenter, was a preacher in the town’s evangelical church. His mother Beverley was a Liberal Democrat councillor who worked for Age Concern.

Neighbours recall Easter egg hunts and Bible readings in the back garden. They were very religious,’ one recalled. ‘And they seemed aloof – as if they thought they were better than us. Ian, the dad, once told me he was a carpenter – ‘like Jesus’.’ In 2009 the family moved 30 miles south to Olney in Buckinghamshire, where Mr Field headed the local Baptist church.

Friends remember Field and his brother as ‘quick-witted’ and ‘very clever’. Tom would sit GCSE maths two years early and go on to study music at Cambridge, where he got a first in his first-year exams. Field also showed early promise, finishing third in a national Scrabble competition aged 16.

But he had an over-inflated opinion of his abilities, truanting from the sixth form at his school to spend time in the town library where he boasted of reading the complete Oxford English Dictionary. His A-level results were unexceptional and he ended up at Buckingham University reading English literature. While there he would experiment sexually – on five occasions accepting between £30 and £50 to participate in gay sex with strangers he met online.

In court he insisted he was heterosexual and the encounters had been about pushing ‘boundaries’.

In 2013, a friend he made at university and then Field moved in to Mr Farquhar’s home as lodgers. At the time Field was working in the bakery at Tesco and as a carer at the nearby Red House Nursing Home. ‘Been working w/ old ppl in mental health and palliative care scenarios,’ he wrote online.

Field could not gain access to the pensioner and Anne Moore-Martin’s (pictured) increasingly suspicious niece, Anne-Marie Blake, was able to alert police who launched an investigation

‘I laid out like 12 bodies. I have literally put people in a bag and zipped them up.’ During his time there he filmed himself tormenting a resident, shoving a camera in her face while asking her about how lonely she felt. ‘You have had a long life and you don’t have any friends and you have never married, and have no children,’ he gloated. ‘I just want to die’, the confused woman said. Field replied: ‘You have got the right to do anything you want. You have got the right to die.’

For someone with such a high opinion of his own abilities, Field viewed these jobs as stop-gap measures. What he wanted was a job that put him in a position of power and authority – either as a teacher, a university lecturer or a vicar. Through Mr Farquhar he was duly offered summer work at Stowe, but it came to nothing.

In 2014, in the same month as his ceremony with Mr Farquhar, he began a relationship with a woman named Setara Pracha, 49, an English lecturer and admissions tutor at Buckingham University. Again, no doubt he had one eye on future possible career advancement. Next Field decided he wanted to be ordained, telling a friend: ‘I’m gonna become a vicar and s*** just because I can outmanoeuvre the Church.’ He joined St Mary’s Church in Stowe as a member of the congregation, becoming a deputy church warden and then applied to join the priesthood. Such a career would have brought limited financial reward. But by then Field had his eye firmly on another source of income – Mr Farquhar.

The full extent of the abuse to which he duly subjected this highly-respected, much-loved former teacher is too long to list.

He even tortured a pet chihuahua named Kipling that he had given to Mr Farquhar, filming it tumbling down the stairs in a box. The agony that this proud man suffered as he degenerated into a ‘dribbling shambles of his former self’ cannot be underestimated. He feared he had dementia, he considered suicide – he felt shame that old friends thought he was an alcoholic, something Field encouraged them to believe behind his back.

In the end, the will having been changed in his killer’s favour, he died at Field’s hand. While only Field knows precisely what happened, prescription sedatives and alcohol were consumed in some way by Mr Farquhar.

That may have been enough to kill him, although police believe he may have been suffocated with a pillow held over his mouth. And yet because Field had set the scene so convincingly, the death aroused no suspicion at the time.

It was duly certified by the coroner as being caused by acute alcohol intoxication. Field duly pocketed £20,000 in cash from the will. A further £1,000 was set aside for him to tend to Mr Farquhar’s grave, ensuring flowers were regularly laid. How obscenely ironic. More significantly, Field was also granted a lifetime interest in his victim’s house, allowing him to stay there rent free. But Mr Farquhar’s brother offered to sell the property and split the proceeds, meaning Field got a further £142,000.

Pictured, Ben Field graduated from Buckingham University in 2014 with an English degree

He used the windfall to buy a £97,500 flat in Towcester, Northamptonshire, outbidding other interested parties. By then he was working on his second victim, Miss Moore-Martin, to whom he had been introduced by Mr Farquhar in mid-2015. Like the academic, she was elderly, unmarried and childless.

Also a retired teacher and a devout Catholic, friends described her as intelligent and gregarious but at the same time an intensely private person. And, like Mr Farquhar, she was lonely. She quickly fell under Field’s spell, giving him a key to her house and telling friends she loved him ‘because he was the person closest to how her father was’.

Sitting beside her on the sofa he would ‘fluff’ his eyelashes down her cheek. When he went away on holiday, he wrote her a poem every day. Worried friends noted that she was acting like a ‘lovesick teenager’.

Over her dressing table she hung a framed photograph bearing the printed words: ‘I am always with you.’ Having reeled her in, he started to exploit her.

In the summer of 2016 she gave him £4,400 to buy a car. Field hired a vehicle for the day to pretend he had bought one. Then he conned her out of £27,000, telling her in tears how his brother was desperately ill and needed to purchase a dialysis machine for use while at university. They met Tom for lunch at a garden centre. ‘He looked dreadful, like he was dying,’ she would later recall. Again, there was a sexual element to the relationship, with Field even persuading her to buy a mechanical ‘sex machine’ in the hope she might die of heart failure whilst using it.

And all the time he was dropping hints about how much he liked her house, how happy he felt there.

He showed her a DVD – Harold and Maude – about an elderly woman who met a younger man. This was all backed up by a campaign of ‘mirror writing’ – the scrawling of messages in white marker on mirrors in her house. One read: ‘Ben makes you whole, Give the whole to him.’

Another stated: ‘All that you give him will be returned tenfold.’

Notes recovered from Field’s home suggest he had tried to convince her that this meant that she should give him ten times what she had already given to him – £311,000 to be precise. Conveniently, that was the value of her house.

Miss Moore-Martin became convinced the messages were real and, at the end of 2016, contacted her solicitor and asked her to change her will in Field’s favour.

He showed her a DVD – Harold and Maude – about an elderly woman who met a younger man. This was all backed up by a campaign of ‘mirror writing’ – the scrawling of messages in white marker on mirrors in her house. One read: ‘Ben makes you whole, Give the whole to him’

In February 2017 she suffered a seizure and was hospitalised.

What caused her sudden decline is unclear but days before the attack she told a friend that Field ‘had given her some powder – it was better than the tablets the doctor had given me’ and that she had had a good night’s sleep.

Tests subsequently failed to find the presence of any drugs in her system, and Field has been cleared of attempting to kill her. In the end it was Miss Moore-Martin’s admission to hospital that saved her.

Field could not gain access to the pensioner and her increasingly suspicious niece, Anne-Marie Blake, was able to alert police who launched an investigation.

At the same time her aunt wrote Field out of her will. In March of that year Field was arrested for the first time. But for Miss Moore-Martin there would be no happy ending. In May 2017 she died of a massive stroke in a care home.

As her niece said in evidence to the jury: ‘She was tortured by it and found it very difficult to get her head around the betrayal. She said to me, ‘I am such an intelligent woman. How could I let this happen to myself?’ The answer? Ben Field. Evil Ben Field.

Additional reporting: JOSH WHITE  

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