Church warden denies murdering university lecturer

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A church warden has denied murdering a university lecturer and conspiring to murder his elderly lover to inherit money from their wills.

Benjamin Field, 28, was giving evidence for the first time in his trial where he is accused of killing former school English teacher Peter Farquhar, 69, and retired headmistress Ann Moore-Martin, 83, after a sustained campaign of “gaslighting”.

Mr Farquhar, a novelist, died in October 2015, while Miss Moore-Martin, who lived a few doors away in the village of Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire died in May 2017.

Field is on trial at Oxford Crown Court alongside magician Martyn Smith, 32, accused of murdering Mr Farquhar and planning to kill Miss Moore-Martin.

David Jeremy QC, defending Field, asked his client: “Did you suffocate him, Peter Farquhar? Administering drugs and gaslighting him? Did you intend to kill him?”

Field replied: “I did not.”

Peter Farquhar
Peter Farquhar died in October 2015 (Thames Valley Police/PA)

Field replied: “I did not. Never.”

Mr Jeremy asked: “Did you talk to her about suicide?”

The bespectacled and bearded defendant replied: “Yes, I spoke to her about it on several occasions. I thought it seemed very unlikely that she would.”

The defendant, the son of a baptist minister, told the jury he had pleaded guilty to fraudulently pretending to be in a relationship with Mr Farquhar and Miss Moore-Martin.

Field was asked what was the “essential lie” about his two-year relationship with Mr Farquhar.

“The essential lie was that I loved him,” Field said. “That, beyond the established friendship that we had, his feelings towards me, that went beyond the platonic, were reciprocated by me. They were not.”

He said he intended to gain financially from Mr Farquhar’s will when he died and that he also “gaslighted” him for around six months.

“Moving things, so that he didn’t find them, to irritate. I did it vindictively and did it to confuse him,” Field said.

He told the court that his gaslighting of Miss Moore-Martin was “very similar” to that of Mr Farquhar and lasted for “approaching” two years.

He said he convinced Miss Moore-Martin “that I had romantic feelings for her and that we were in a genuine romantic relationship, which we were not”.

Field agreed that he told Miss Moore-Martin he loved her.

“I was pretending to have a real relationship with her, that was false,” he said.

“Again to gain from her, to get her to change her will and, when she died, to inherit from her.”

Field told the court he did not know how a copy of 101-year-old Liz Zettl’s will ended up on his computer server at the University of Buckingham.

The defendant told the jury he and Mr Farquhar shared a lot of interests but he found aspects of his personality “annoying” and said, like him, he was “secretive” and “grudge holding”.

“I had a great deal of affection for him as a friend. We had a huge amount in common and spent a lot of time together,” he said.

“I saw in myself, in what I saw in Peter, which was aloneness.”

Ann Moore-Martin
Ann Moore-Martin died in May 2017 (Thames Valley Police/PA

“I have deceived absolutely everybody that I have any kind of relationship with,” Field said.

Jurors also heard Field describe his drug use, taking one line of cocaine in 2010 and later taking benzodiazepines to help him sleep during 2014/15.

He also said he had been cautioned by the police in 2011 for shoplifting t-shirts. He also admitted to frequently trespassing and, while a teenager, shoplifting.

Field said he was heterosexual but had been paid between £30 and £50 for receiving oral sex in hotels from men who answered an ad he had placed on the “casual encounters” section of the Craiglist website when he was aged 20.

Asked to explain why he did it, Field replied: “Having done something I had not done before and try to do something I found transgressive and test myself.”

Field and Smith deny murder, conspiracy to murder and possession of an article for the use in fraud.

Field, of Wellingborough Road, Olney, Buckinghamshire, also denies an alternative charge of attempted murder. He has admitted four charges of fraud and two of burglary.

Smith, of Penhalvean, Redruth, Cornwall, denies two charges of fraud and one of burglary.

Field’s younger brother Tom, a 24-year-old Cambridge University graduate, of Wellingborough Road, Olney, Buckinghamshire, is also on trial accused of a single charge of fraud.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.

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