A PhD student accused of murdering a university lecturer and plotting to kill his elderly lover has admitted he has an interest in the “extremes of death”.
Benjamin Field, 28, claimed a fascination with literature about dying and his work in an elderly care home lay behind his attraction to the subject.
Field is on trial alongside Martyn Smith, a 32-year-old magician, for the murder of Peter Farquhar, 69, and conspiracy to murder retired headmistress Ann Moore-Martin, 83, in order to benefit financially from their wills.
Oxford Crown Court heard he owned copies of books and essays about death, including Five Last Acts, Easing The Passing and The Savage God, as well as a copy of the film Young Poisoner’s Handbook.
“I did think I was comfortable with death,” said Field, a church warden and the son of a Baptist minister, during cross-examination by prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC.
“I had been working at Red House care home for three months and seeing death and dying for the first time and a lot of it.
“It was something that had become part of my life. I thought I was getting there and looking back it was a scab constantly picked by me.”
Field claimed that internet searches he carried out for “bleach suicide”, “most prolific executioner” and “cyanide poison” were for “entertainment” rather than “pleasure”.
He also accessed posts on a chatroom about “injecting testicles with lactic acid” and “bleach enemas”.
“I was interested in death and I was working in an end-of-life setting,” he explained.
The jury also watched a video clip filmed by Field in the care home of him taunting an elderly woman about loneliness, pain and death.
Asked about the clip, Field said: “It’s horrible, cruel, a revolting thing to watch.”
The prosecutor suggested that Field had talked to Mr Farquhar about death to “try and break him down... in the hope that he might kill himself.”
Mr Saxby continued: “You are someone clearly adept at devising and carrying out plans?”
Field replied: “I don’t think so.”
Mr Saxby suggested: “It would require a willingness to lie, not just for the sake of it, but in furtherance of the plan. Are you willing for pain to be inflicted for the furtherance of one of the plans?”
Field replied: “Not really, no.”
Mr Saxby said: “It would involve as a characteristic getting someone to change their will, it would involve an idea with the ‘extremes of death’ – and that is an enormous thing to do. To accept that you have an ease with the extremes of death and the idea of killing.”
Field replied: “I have an interest but not an ease.”
Mr Saxby said: “A certain arrogance – that sense of you can do it and get away with it.”
Field replied: “If I was to do it and get away with it, that would be correct.”
The court also heard that the police had covertly recorded conversations Field and Smith had while being transported to the magistrates’ court, in which Field talks about “getting away with it”.
Asked what he meant by the comment, Field replied: “In the sense I hadn’t done them, so I wouldn’t be found guilty of them and the charges were nonsense.”
Field and Smith both deny charges of 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.
In addition Smith, of Penhalvean, Redruth, Cornwall, denies two charges of fraud and one of burglary.
Field’s younger brother Tom Field, a 24 year-old Cambridge University graduate of Wellingborough Road, Olney, Buckinghamshire, denies a single charge of fraud.
The trial continues on Monday.