The betrothal ceremony which befell at a church in North London on a good looking spring day in May 2014 was a joyous event — for one of the contributors no less than.
Later, Peter Farquhar, 68, would describe it in his diary as ‘a blessed day’ and ‘one of the happiest moments of my life’.
In a photograph taken shortly afterwards, his associate, 24-year-old deputy churchwarden Ben Field, appears equally enamoured. In reality, he was really dishonest on Peter with 4 totally different girls, whereas additionally having covert sexual liaisons with numerous males he met by way of the homosexual social networking app Grindr.
Peter Farquhar, 68, left, was murdered by church warden Ben Field, proper, who has been described as a ‘very charming psychopath’
And his actual ideas in direction of the man he professed to like could also be divined from the music which performed hauntingly in the background throughout the ceremony — an aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
The most well-known cinematic use of this piece was in The Silence Of The Lambs, when the serial killer Hannibal Lecter chewed the face off one of his guards. It was additionally a lot listened to by the troubled and murderous central character in Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thriller The Talented Mr Ripley.
That e-book accommodates one of the most precisely drawn portraits of a psychopath I’ve ever encountered in literature. It is my opinion as a criminologist that Ben Field can also be a psychopath, and I think he selected the music for the betrothal ceremony as a macabre setting of the stage for what was to comply with.
In little greater than a 12 months, he would have murdered Peter after persuading him to alter his will in his favour. This was not a spontaneous killing. Field is an instance of a ‘process-focused’ perpetrator, somebody who positive aspects nice pleasure from prolonging their sufferer’s agony and watching their struggling.
Notable examples embody the nurse Beverley Allitt, who loved the spectacle of the emergencies she created in the Lincolnshire hospital the place she killed 4 youngsters between February and April 1991, and Colin Ireland, who in 1993 murdered 5 homosexual males in London and appreciated to slowly torture his victims. Allitt and Ireland did not need dying to return instantly however over time.
Oxford Crown Court convicted Field of murdering Mr Farquhar who lived on this home in the village of Maids Moreton
Ben Field took his time, too. He tormented Peter Farquhar over a interval of many months and likewise wrote an inventory of 100 individuals to focus on subsequent — an inventory that included his personal mother and father. Had he not been stopped, he might simply have turn out to be the subsequent Harold Shipman.
I used to be notably intrigued by this homicide, not simply because I’m a criminologist however as a result of it occurred in the village of Maids Moreton which is on the edge of Buckingham, the sleepy Home Counties market city the place I’ve lived for the final 30 or so years.
A disaster right here is more likely to be an absence of sauvignon blanc in Waitrose than something crime-related. So when individuals heard that I used to be going to put in writing about the homicide, they mentioned issues like, ‘He appeared like such a pleasant younger man,’ or ‘Can you consider that occurred right here?’
Yes, is the reply, I can consider it. Murder does not simply occur elsewhere and murderers are sometimes described as ‘good younger males’.
But Ben Field definitely made a radical job of grooming the local people to think about him a critical scholar and dedicated Christian — the final particular person you’ll suspect of preying on the aged and susceptible.
When the reality lastly got here to gentle, the Crown Prosecution Service described the case as ‘like one thing out of a novel’. Ironically, it was a love of literature that had introduced Peter and his killer collectively.
They met in 2011, at the University of Buckingham, the small, personal college unfold over two campuses inside the city. There 20-year-old Field, who was in the last 12 months of an English diploma, enrolled in a module on Romantic literature taught by Peter. A slight, bird-like determine, Peter had turn out to be a part-time lecturer after retiring as a really profitable head of English at close by Stowe, the public faculty whose outdated boys embody the actor David Niven and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.
Field was accused of grooming a number of aged individuals together with Mr Farqhuar, pictured
While at Stowe, his connections had enabled him to ask such literary luminaries as Iris Murdoch to present talks and, after he left, he continued to guide a life described to me by a number of who knew him effectively as ‘fulfilling’ — making common journeys to Oxford and London to go to galleries and attend live shows.
He additionally ran a really critical e-book membership known as The Stowe Reading Group and had a circle of buddies. But he struggled with an ethical dilemma, which was additionally the focus of all three of his self-published novels. Put merely, might he have homosexual relationships and nonetheless retain his religion regardless of the Church of England’s official intolerance in direction of homosexuality?
In his diaries, he recorded how determined he was to present his like to somebody and Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain, a insurgent priest who has all the time been open about his sexuality and who carried out that betrothal ceremony, instructed me that Ben Field was the variety of person who Peter fantasised about: ‘a youthful man who was effectively learn’.
Back dwelling in the Northamptonshire city of Olney, simply 20 miles from Buckingham, Field’s household have been described as ‘the spine of the neighborhood’. His mom was a former Liberal Democrat councillor and his father a Baptist minister.
They introduced up their three youngsters to worth training and have a very good work ethic however their center little one Ben was, as one of his former classmates described it to me, ‘in love together with his personal mind’.
He claimed to have written a romantic novel for Mills & Boon and likewise boasted of having realized signal language. Neither was ever confirmed. But he appreciated to suppose of himself as a reduce above the relaxation. One faculty buddy remembered him memorising obscure phrases from the dictionary and attempting to embarrass lecturers who did not know what they meant.
For him to succeed, another person all the time needed to fail. At college, one of his lecturers instructed me, he had a condescending sneer, laughing scornfully at different college students’ contributions in school and rolling his eyes if he did not suppose they have been as much as scratch. Such emotions of superiority are seen in lots of process-focused killers.
In deciding who ought to dwell and who ought to die, they really feel highly effective and God-like, and Field’s rampant narcissism additionally persuaded him that he was irresistible and that everybody should want him.
His seduction technique depended partly on the beauty which, in his first 12 months at college, noticed him promoting sexual providers to males he allowed to pleasure him in resort rooms for £30 to £50 a time.
He additionally had the present of the gab. In his journals, he described how he ‘snake-talked’ his means into Peter’s dwelling the place he performed completely the half of besotted suitor. For his half, Peter’s personal diaries described Field as ‘a pleasant younger man’.
Field went with him to providers at Stowe Parish Church and embedded himself as a trusted member of the congregation, occurring to turn out to be a deputy churchwarden with a view to in the future being ordained. His motive for that was of the most doubtful variety. ‘I’m gonna turn out to be a vicar and s*** simply because I can out-manoeuvre the church,’ he wrote in an online chat with a buddy.
It’s alarming to suppose that, as a priest, he would have gained entry to a brand new pool of aged and susceptible individuals. But, for the second, he was targeted on Peter and constructing the credibility which was key to his success, simply because it had been for Harold Shipman.
Very few individuals had questioned Shipman’s scientific behaviour, even when the aged individuals who died in his care had been match and effectively previous to him visiting. He was, in any case, a health care provider. Similarly, Field used his supposed religion and tutorial achievements to allay suspicion.
After graduating from Buckingham with an upper-second diploma Field undertook an MA in English Literature and when he accomplished it in 2013 the college took the extremely uncommon step of publishing his dissertation. This public endorsement implies that it was investing in him as a scholar for the future and he would later go on to a PhD, instructing undergraduate seminars and considered the college’s ‘poster boy.’
By the time he completed his MA he was dwelling with Peter. His relationship with a person so revered regionally additional enhanced his plausibility, as did his part-time work at the Red House Nursing Home in Maids Moreton.
Although the police have launched few particulars about who was on Field’s hit-list, it appears possible that it featured some of the Red House’s residents. It is feasible that he was a gerontophile and so gained pleasure from having intercourse with the aged.
Even if he was solely pretending to be bodily interested by his a lot older associate he was very profitable in his deception, suggesting, on Peter’s 68th birthday in January 2014, that they need to solemnise their love for one another in that betrothal ceremony.
Oblivious to the incontrovertible fact that Field was dishonest on him with each ladies and men, Peter couldn’t consider his luck in having met him.
‘God is sweet to me, much better than I deserve,’ he wrote in his diary. ‘Gone are the fears of dying alone.’
From January 2015 onwards, Field started creating the proof that, when the time got here, would persuade not solely Peter’s household and buddies but additionally the coroner that there was nothing suspicious about his dying.
Posing as a involved associate and carer, he started spreading rumours that Peter was consuming closely and, later, that he had dementia. In a small city, these unfold like wildfire.
To lend credence to those tales, he started drugging Peter with flurazepam and different sedatives alongside medication obtainable solely illegally online.
Hiding these in meals and cups of tea, Field additionally broke open capsules of Peter’s prescription medicines and changed the contents together with his personal medication.
Their mixed results left Peter complaining about tiredness and forgetfulness.
He additionally skilled terrifying hallucinations and started falling down and simply typically feeling ‘wretchedly sick’.
Along with drugging Peter, Field was gaslighting him, eradicating objects from their standard locations just for them to reappear unexpectedly elsewhere, leaving Peter feeling as if he was going loopy.
When Peter discovered all his contacts on his mobile phone had been mysteriously erased, he might solely conclude that he had finished this in his befuddled state of mind, however all the time it was Field doing it behind his again.
We glimpse Peter’s misery in letters that he emailed to Dr Jonathan Pryce, his GP.
In one, he describes a night when he had spent ‘a dreadful night time’ seeing illusions. These included a ‘mass of black bugs on the carpet and climbing the radiator. While it was taking place, I felt that I needed to die, the expertise was so insufferable.’
When individuals started noticing that Peter was not attending church or social capabilities, Field merely steered that his absences have been as a result of his dementia and alcoholism. He was cautious to supply supporting proof for these claims ought to they be challenged, filming his sufferer mendacity dazed and confused in his mattress.
One clip reveals the extent of Peter’s struggling as he tries to make sense of what’s taking place to him.
‘I really feel I’m so dependent. It’s such a wierd world . . . I really was type of competent,’ he says wearily.
As a process-focused killer, Field would have loved watching Peter’s confusion, whereas he intentionally stored the neighborhood at arm’s size so he might management the narrative about what was taking place to Peter.
To that finish, he gave him a canine they known as Kipling. While Field would derive pleasure from torturing this poor creature — filming it tumbling downstairs in a cardboard field — it served a extra sensible objective in that Peter would keep in to take care of the canine quite than attending live shows or visiting the theatre as he had earlier than.
Field was so profitable in his deception that, after he was convicted, Peter’s brother Ian and his spouse Sue defined that that they had believed what he had instructed them — that Peter was sick, and required fixed care — and have been happy that he was serving to him.
Indeed, when Field was first arrested, Sue thought the police had made a horrible mistake.
Here was yet one more echo of Shipman, whose sufferers had lined as much as defend him in the Press, insisting he was a very good physician.
That August got here what Peter described to a buddy as ‘the worst day of my life’. It involved the publication of his e-book A Wide Wide Sea by an organization known as Farquhar Studies, arrange by Field and a buddy from college to revenue from gross sales of Peter’s novels.
The e-book launch was held in the grand marble corridor at Stowe School. When he arrived with Field, Peter seemed flushed and was visibly shaking. He struggled to recollect individuals’s names, even these of buddies he had identified for a few years, and located it virtually not possible to signal the books that folks purchased.
In the phrases of one attendee I interviewed, ‘Peter wasn’t himself. He seemed terrible and was, unhappy to say, falling aside in entrance of my eyes. I assumed that he was sick, or drunk, or each.’
Peter’s rambling, shambolic look at the launch was little doubt precisely what Field needed. Here was proof that Peter actually was ‘dropping it’ and extra got here in September when Peter summarised his well being points in one other e mail to Dr Pryce, his GP:
‘I’ve felt very drained. I’ve confused dates. I neglect names of individuals and locations. My sense of stability has been unsure. Formerly a voracious reader, I’ve not learn a e-book for a while.’
For a person who cared a lot about literature, this final problem will need to have been particularly upsetting. Robbing him of this nice love of his life little doubt gave Field large satisfaction, and it was literature he turned to when, on the night of Sunday, October 25, 2015, he determined it was time to make his last transfer. Or, as he put it so bluntly in a single of his notebooks, to ‘finish Peter’.
Only Field is aware of precisely what occurred that night time however, similar to a key character in his e-book A Bitter Heart, Peter was one way or the other made to eat a harmful mixture of a sedative and whisky.
It’s possible that, at the very finish, Field suffocated Peter with a cushion to make sure that he was useless. And, as if this wasn’t appalling sufficient, there was yet another sadistic twist. We now know from his journal that, as Peter was dying, Field mentioned to him: ‘I hated you all alongside.’
He additionally reminded Peter that he had modified his will, boasting that ‘that is my home’.
So the final phrases Peter heard from the man to whom he’d pledged his love in a betrothal ceremony solely the earlier 12 months have been of hate and vitriol.
When Peter’s cleaner discovered his physique the subsequent morning, he was slumped on the couch with a near-empty bottle of whisky.
The coroner determined he had died unintentionally of ‘acute alcohol intoxication’, simply as Field had deliberate.
The following month, he delivered the eulogy at Peter’s funeral in Stowe Parish Church, reminding the congregation of an evening the earlier November when Peter was ‘gleeful, sparkler in his hand, writing his title in the air amongst shrieks of laughter’.
This will need to have introduced a smile to the faces of many in the church, unaware that this picture of a happier time was being conjured up by the man who had murdered Peter. A person who, as I’ll describe in Monday’s Mail, already had his sights set on his subsequent aged and equally susceptible sufferer.
- Adapted from A Plot To Kill: A True Story Of Deception, Betrayal And Murder In A Quiet English city by David Wilson, revealed on June 17 by Little Brown at £20. © David Wilson 2021. To order a duplicate for £17.80 (supply legitimate to 30/6/21; P&P free), go to www.mailshop.co.uk/books or name 020 3308 9193.