Former church warden jailed for killing lecturer fails in appeal bid

Brian Farmer, PA
·2-min read

A former church warden jailed for murdering a vulnerable university lecturer after a campaign of physical and mental torture has failed to persuade Court of Appeal judges that his conviction is unsafe.

Benjamin Field was found guilty of killing Peter Farquhar, 69, in order to inherit his house and money after driving him to think he was losing his mind following a period of gaslighting.

He asked three appeal judges to overturn his conviction earlier this year, at a Court of Appeal hearing in London.

But Lord Justice Fulford, Mrs Justice Whipple and Mr Justice Fordham on Thursday ruled against him.

Field, 30, of Olney, Buckinghamshire, was given a mandatory life sentence and ordered to spend at least 36 years in jail in October 2019 after being convicted of Mr Farquhar’s murder following a trial at Oxford Crown Court.

At the appeal hearing in January, a barrister for Field argued trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney had misdirected the jury and said the murder conviction was “unsafe” as a result.

David Jeremy QC also said directions given to jurors before they started deliberations left the defence with “nothing to say”, when in fact there was “much that could be said on Field’s behalf on the issue of causation”.

Maids Moreton murder
Peter Farquhar was murdered by Benjamin Field after being subjected to mental and physical torture by him (handout/PA)

But the three appeal judges ruled Mr Justice Sweeney’s approach was correct.

In a written ruling, Lord Justice Fulford said that between 2012 and mid-2017, Field had pretended to be in a genuine and caring relationship first with Mr Farquhar, who lived in Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire, and subsequently with his elderly neighbour Ann Moore-Martin.

They said he was instead seeking to manipulate and exploit them for his own gain.

Field had admitted several frauds against them, along with burglaries at the homes of other elderly people in the same street.

Lord Justice Fulford said Field had “appreciated and ruthlessly exploited” Farquhar’s vulnerability.

Field said he had not murdered, nor intended to kill, Mr Farquhar, despite his “admitted and repulsive behaviour” towards him.

Lord Justice Fulford said: “This appeal turns on the single question of whether the judge’s directions to the jury were legally correct.

“We consider that the approach of the judge was correct.”

He said Mr Justice Sweeney’s directions “captured the essence of the issue in a clear and admirably succinct manner”.