Maids Moreton trial: 'Evil' Ben Field guilty of murdering lecturer he seduced

An "evil and calculating" church warden who inherited the home of a university lecturer he had seduced, defrauded and tried to drive to suicide during a campaign of mental and physical torture has been found guilty of his murder.

Ben Field, 28, admitted that he befriended and later became engaged to Peter Farquhar, 69, gave him drugs to confuse him, and then inherited his home when he died in October 2015.

But he had denied murdering him at his home in the village of Maids Moreton in Buckinghamshire. However, a jury found him guilty after a trial at Oxford Crown Court.

His co-accused, 32-year-old magician Martyn Smith, was found not guilty of the same charge - and the pair were together cleared of a charge of conspiracy to murder retired headteacher Ann Moore-Martin.

Field was also acquitted of her attempted murder, but had admitted seducing and defrauding her in a similar fashion to how he targeted her neighbour Mr Farquhar.

He turned his attention to the 83-year-old woman, who lived three doors away, within a year and persuaded her that he loved her and she gave him £30,000.

She died in hospital of natural causes in May 2017, soon after the plot to defraud her was uncovered.

Field, the son of a baptist minister, was a student when he met Mr Farquhar in April 2011 and realised that the English teacher was conflicted about his homosexuality.

He set about befriending him and the two men became engaged.

Mark Glover, the senior investigating officer for Thames Valley Police, called Field "evil and calculating".

He told Sky News: "Peter had wanted somebody to love all his life and he was now 68 and this wonderful young man came into his life and he had no reason to disbelieve him."

Field laced his food and drinks with alcohol and drugs to confuse him, and the elderly man suffered several falls which required medical treatment.

"Poor Peter suffered massively from the taking of the drugs," Mr Glover said.

"He would fall over in the bathroom and smash his face open, he fell down the stairs.

"He did all kinds of physical things to him. It's not just the financial effect of the fraud, but also the physical injury and mental torture that went with it."

Mr Glover said Field subjected the old man to a prolonged campaign of "gaslighting".

He added: "Gaslighting goes back to a play from the 1930s and I would best describe it as mental torture.

"Peter had a mobile phone. He would go to his mobile phone and for some reason all his contacts had been deleted and he couldn't explain it.

"He would go to get his house keys or his car keys and could not find them. Items went missing all the time. Pictures got moved, all kinds of things. It was a bit like having a poltergeist in your house I suppose."

Mr Farquhar was found dead in his home in October 2015 - he was slumped on the sofa next to a half empty bottle of whiskey and an inquest concluded that the death was alcohol-related.

Field had killed him and successfully made it look like he had drunk himself to death, with police not treating it as murder until March 2017.

Before then, Field had tried to drive Mr Farquhar to suicide by drugging him and encouraging him to drink.

He also gave him "10 Battle Raps" as a Christmas present - a collection of "extremely insulting" rhymes about the retired academic that he found deeply upsetting.

In response, Mr Farquhar wrote a poem in which he described Field as "laughably vain", "deceptive and disloyal", and as having a "poisoned head".

Field - who grew up in Market Harborough, Leicestershire - collected £160,000 from Mr Farquhar's estate soon after his death and within a year he befriended Miss Moore-Martin.

Despite a 55-year age gap, he sent her letters and cards declaring his love, and gave her a framed photograph of himself which she kept in her bedroom.

Field, whose mother was a Liberal Democrat councillor, then convinced her that his brother was seriously ill and needed a dialysis machine costing £26,000.

She withdrew her savings to pay for it.

When asked what happened to the money during his trial at Oxford Crown Court, Field replied: "Well I certainly didn't buy a dialysis machine - I spent it."

Miss Moore-Martin was a devout Catholic and Field preyed on her beliefs.

He wrote messages on mirrors telling her what she should do, which she believed to be messages from God.

Field took photos of what he was doing to document his fraud, which were then used to prosecute him. Relatives of the pensioner became suspicious of their unusual relationship, but a legal coincidence helped uncover the fraud.

Miss Moore-Martin contacted a local solicitor to change her will to make Field a beneficiary, but it was the same solicitor who Mr Farquhar had used when he arranged for Field to inherit his property.

Mr Glover told Sky News: "It had obviously had a massive effect on Anne and in the last few weeks of her life it was dawning on Anne the effect that Ben Field had had on her life.

"She was made to feel a fool, without a doubt and she knew that.

"Anne being the devout Catholic that she was, the kind of upstanding member of the community, retired headteacher all that kind of thing, that would have devastated her, absolutely devastated her.

"I imagine she must have been lying in her hospital bed and it all coming over to her that actually it wasn't a loving relationship, that Ben didn't love her and it was all about getting the contents of her will."

Her niece, Anne-Marie Blake, gave evidence at the trial from behind a screen - shielded from view from the defendants and the public - and has not been back to court since.

She told the court: "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?'"

Sentencing against Field - who was charged with Mr Smith last November - has been adjourned until after a pre-sentence psychiatric report is carried out, and he will remain in custody until then.

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

In a statement released by his solicitor after the verdicts on Friday, Ben Field's co-accused Mr Smith said he was "relieved that this ordeal is finally over".

He added: "I would also like to thank my true friends and family for all the emotional support that they have provided since my arrest.

"The lessons I take from this case are first and foremost to always be your own person and secondly to always choose your friends very carefully."

Another statement was read outside court by Detective Sergeant Richard Earl, on behalf of Mr Farquhar's family.

They described him as a "very loving and supportive man" and a "wonderful brother and uncle", adding that hearing evidence about what Field did to him "has been extremely difficult".

They said: "His actions have been unbelievably callous, and he has told lie after lie after lie in order to achieve his goals, deceiving everyone he met."

Mr Glover said Field "has never shown any remorse" for what he did, and that he "would have posed an ongoing danger to society" if he had not been stopped.