A church warden accused of killing his former teacher convinced his victim he had a rare form of cancer and moved things around in his home to ‘gaslight’ him into thinking he’d gone mad, a court heard.
Son of a Baptist minister Benjamin Field, 28, is on trial with magician Martyn Smith, 32, accused of murdering Peter Farquhar, 69, following a sustained campaign of ‘gaslighting’ in 2015.
Oxford Crown Court heard that Field told a friend he had a ‘struck a deal’ to live with Mr Farquhar – a novelist and former English teacher – at his home in the village of Maids Moreton in Buckinghamshire.
Peter’s brother Ian Farquhar, 68, said Field had tried to diagnose Peter with a rare cancer, and in the last six months before he died Peter would have hallucinations, pointing out ‘lights in the sky’ on a cloudy day.
Ian said that his late brother had fallen for a ‘total seduction’, today learning that Field had admitted to moving things around in the home they shared in a bid to make Peter think he’d gone mad.
Pictured: Peter Farqhuar, left, and Benjamin Field, right. Peter’s brother Ian said that his late brother had fallen for a ‘total seduction’
David Jeremy QC, defending for Benjamin Field, asked Ian Farquhar: ‘Did you know he admits disorienting Peter Farquhar by hiding and moving his possessions?’
Ian Farquhar said: ‘I didn’t know that until you just said it.’
Field and Smith are also accused of planning to kill Peter’s elderly neighbour Ann Moore-Martin, 83. Peter Farquhar died in October 2015, while Miss Moore-Martin, a retired teacher, died in May 2017.
The jury at Oxford Crown Court also heard that Ian Farquhar had found out for the first time this morning morning that Field admitted secretly administering hallucinogenic drugs to his brother.
Ian Farquhar said: ‘At the time, it seemed to be a developing relationship. They appeared to have things in common. Most certainly, I maybe see it now as a total seduction.’
Benjamin Field (left), 28, and Martyn Smith (right), 32, are on trial at Oxford Crown Court and deny murder, conspiracy to murder
Speaking of the day Field told him Peter had been found dead on October 26, 2015, Ian said Field had appeared ‘strangely unaffected’, acted inappropriately and did not said the kind of things one might expect someone who’d lost a close friend to say.
Ian said: ‘At the time, it seemed to be a developing relationship. They appeared to have things in common. Most certainly, I maybe see it now as a total seduction.’
Field managed to persuade Peter Farquhar to make changes to Peter’s will, prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC had told the jury.
The house was going to be left to Ian Farquhar and his sons, Andrew and Jamie, but it ended up being left to Field and Martyn Smith, the court heard.
The will was later amended so that Field and the Farquhars would share the property.
Ian Farquhar said: ‘I always thought Peter would be the one to live longer, he had my mum’s build, and she lived to be in her nineties. He was someone who was far more particular about what he ate. He was somebody who had a good Scottish tradition of not wasting things.
Peter Farquhar (left), 69, and Ann Moore-Martin, 83, died within a year and a half of each other
‘He was somebody who knew, irritatingly, where everything was and what he’d done and what he’d said to people. Then he had this ridiculous forgetfulness. I always remember about him continuously losing his glasses and losing his telephone and finding them in strange places.
‘He saw things – he had hallucinations. Me and my wife, we were sitting in his front room talking to him, and he said, ”can you see all those lights in the sky over there?”
‘We looked out and it was a cloudy day. That would have been within the last six months before he died.’
Ian said he first became aware of Ben Field a few years before Peter’s death. Peter met Field while he was a guest lecturer at the University of Buckingham, and Field was a student there.
Ian Farquhar said: ‘As a family, we talked about this a little bit. We were aware of his, shall we say, his tendencies. But at the time it seemed a bit nosy to put our nose into what was going on there.
The pensioners lived three houses apart in the village of Maids Moreton in Buckinghamshire
‘I asked Ben Field later on what the relationship was. If I remember rightly, he said that he loved and cared for him. It wasn’t an easy conversation, not an easy subject. I asked Ben if he was gay. He said that he wasn’t. I’m fairly sure that I decided to have the conversation because I knew that they were sharing a bed.’
Ian and Peter Farquhar had been in conversation with Field as Peter’s health continued to deteriorate. They had agreed that Field would get power of attorney, because he was local to the Buckingham area, and was living with Peter at his home on Manor Park in the village of Maids Moreton.
Peter had been visiting his GP and had brain scans to try and understand why he was experiencing daytime hallucinations, and his memory, power of speech and ability to stand were deserting him.
The court heard he believed he had a urinary tract infection, but Ian said Field had tried to diagnose him with a rare cancer.
Ian said: ‘Peter explained Ben had a view. He had done some research on the internet. He didn’t fully understand it, but it was some unusual type of cancer and I could tell immediately that this was frightening to Peter. I know my brother was really frightened by it.
‘It was a completely confusing, scientific name and I did not make a note of it. I asked Ben Field to explain his theory when we were with the GP. I felt it was a good opportunity with the eminent medical man there. But at that time Ben just said that he’d discounted that theory now.’
On the weekend of October 24 and 25 2015, Ian Farquhar had been to see his two sons with his wife Susan in Hull, where he had learnt that both boys had long-term partners and were considering marriage.
Oxford Crown Court saw disturbing footage of novelist Mr Farquhar, pictured, ‘drugged’ in bed and struggling to string words and sentences together
He had also spoken to Peter Farquhar, who told him he felt much better and had resolved a dispute with a neighbour.
The next day he was driving on the motorway when he received a call from Field to tell him Peter had died.
Ian Farquhar told High Court judge Mr Justice Sweeney: ‘Field said, ”if you’re driving can you get off the motorway. Peter has died.” I said you must be joking.
‘I drove straight to his address, Ben Field was there and the police were there, I think it was before lunchtime.
‘Field was strangely unaffected. My mind was really on my brother, but I saw that, maybe in retrospect I feel that this was not the response of somebody who had just lost a good, close friend.’
Defending Field, Mr Jeremy asked: ‘If he had murdered him, you would expect him to act grief and emotion, wouldn’t you?’
Ian Farquhar said: ‘I don’t know. He didn’t actually even say he was sorry that my brother had died, which seemed really strange because the most significant person in my life for so many years…I don’t know if it was callousness.
‘He didn’t say anything that is appropriate to someone who had seen their brother had just died.’
Following the death, Field and Smith had lived in Peter Farquhar’s home and Ian Farquhar told how the property had become like a house that students might live it without taking too much care – with weights and powders left scattered around by bodybuilding enthusiast Field.
Eventually Ian Farquhar and Field had agreed to sell the property, which Field had been given a lifetime interest in, rather than renting it out.
Field ended up receiving around £140,000 in total, and in early 2017, he purchased a flat in Towcester, in Islington Court, for which he offered dramatically over the asking price, the court heard.
Field and Smith were also accused of attempting to murder 83-year-old Ann Moore-Martin, who was a neighbour living just a couple of doors down the road.
Field, of Olney, is charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of conspiracy to murder, one count of burglary, three counts of fraud and one count of possession of an article for use in fraud. He has admitted the three fraud counts and the burglary.
Smith, of Redruth, Cornwall, denies all the charges against him – one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of conspiracy to murder, three counts of fraud, one count of burglary and one count of possession of an article for use in fraud, namely the will of an 101-year-old woman called Elizabeth Zettl, who Field lodged with.
Also in the dock was Tom Field, 23, of Olney, Buckinghamshire, who is Benjamin Field’s brother. He was charged with fraud by false representation.
The prosecutor told the jury this was in relation to an alleged incident where the two Field brothers and Smith convinced Ms Ann Moore-Martin that Tom Field needed £27,000 to buy a kidney dialysis machine so he could remain at university. He denies fraud.
The trial continues.
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