Prosecution witnesses take stand in Maids Moreton murder trial
On Wednesday 15 May, day 11 of the Maids Moreton murder trial at Oxford Crown Court, the prosecution called a number of witnesses including Peter Farquhar's brother, Ian Farquhar, one of his closest friend's, Robert Wilson and a former girlfriend of Ben Field, Nina Eriksen-Grey.
Mr Wilson said that he'd met Peter Farquhar in 1970 while both were studying at Cambridge University.
He explained that both went on to teach at Manchester Grammar and shared accommodation for two years during this period.
He said they became close friends who shared holidays together.
Mr Wilson described to the jury how Peter Farquhar had confided in him about his struggles with his sexuality.
“As it was presented to me, it was his Christian belief that the experience of homosexual sex was forbidden.”
And as such, he added: “He lived a life of celibacy but it was at a cost of considerable strain.”
The prosecution pointed Mr Wilson toward an email he received from Peter Farquhar describing how his relationship with Ben Field had unexpectedly progressed during a short trip together.
Mr Farquhar wrote that his relationship with Ben Field was now “much more than just a good friendship.”
Mr Wilson went on to detail what he thought was a strange incident with Ben Field when they met up during a visit to Cuddesdon by Ben Field, where Mr Wilson lived. Ben Field was there to attend an Open Day at Ripon College, a ministry training college.
Ben Field was considering entering the priesthood and after Mr Wilson suggested that his experience working at an old people's home should help, Ben replied:
“It will also help to look after Peter when he succumbs to dementia.”
Mr Wilson said that at the time Peter had no history or symptoms of dementia.
Soon after, Peter Farquhar began telling Mr Wilson about his own increasingly strange behaviour, the witness said.
He told the jury that Peter Farquhar had said the following to him:
“Apparently I sleepwalk every night. I have no recollection of it but the boys find the things that I move.”
The court was then played a voicemail left by Peter Farquhar for Robert Wilson on the 24 October 2015 - the day before the prosecution claims that Peter Farquhar was murdered.
On the recording, Peter Farquhar says: “I'm actually really well - I've recovered now. It got worse and worse. I had three A and E outings and ended up spending a weekend in a care home. Quite suddenly it all cleared up and I'm back to normal. In late July, August, September it just seemed to get worse but I am over it now, thank goodness.”
During his cross examination, Timothy Moloney QC asked questions about Peter Farquhar's alleged self centeredness and drinking habits.
Mr Wilson said: “He was great company when you were looking at something objectively.”
Mr Wilson agreed that Peter Farquhar could be oppressive, as Mr Moloney put it, when talking about himself but added:
“He was a highly principled man and he would ask about others.”
When Mr Moloney put it to Mr Wilson that Peter Farquhar found it difficult to see other people's point of view, Mr Wilson replied:
“I wouldn't say that.”
The defence then asked Mr Wilson to describe Peter Farquhar's drinking habits. The witness said:
“He was a steady drinker, not a heavy drinker.”
Mr Wilson said that Peter Farquhar would often have some wine with dinner and maybe a spirit or two afterwards but that he never saw Peter Farquhar drunk.
Relating back to the guilt that Mr Wilson said that Peter Farquhar felt regarding his sexuality, Mr Moloney suggested to the witness that part of Peter Farquhar's guilt was due to his interest in “very young men.”
Mr Wilson said: “I don't think that's appropriate regarding Peter.”
Finally, the defence moved on to the witnesses impression of Ben Field. Mr Wilson said:
“He was pleasant and companionable on all the occasions that I saw him.”
He added that now he wondered if Mr Field was “keeping me sweet, keeping me on side.”
When asked if it was possible that there was any good in Ben Field, Mr Wilson answered:
“Well I suppose anything is possible.”
The prosecution then reexamined Mr Wilson, pointing the jury toward the list of around 100 clients that the prosecution asserts is a list of potential people that Ben Field was considering to defraud.
Mr Saxby QC said to Mr Wilson: “Your name is on that list.”
Mr Saxby followed this by going through Mr Wilson's assets circa 2015, which he stated as owning a house with his partner and having approximately £50,000 worth of savings.
At this point Mr Wilson concluded of Ben Field:
“It reinforces my sense that he's a very strange man.”
After lunch, the prosecution called a former girlfriend of Ben Field, Nina Eriksen-Grey to the stand.
Ms Eriksen-Grey told the jury that she met Ben Field at Red House Care Home in December 2013 when he began working there. She had worked there since March 2013.
She explained that she began a sexual relationship with Ben Field in February 2014 and that it lasted for two or three months.
The prosecution asked if Ben Field mentioned his financial situation to her. Ms Eriksen-Grey replied:
“He said he had a chunk of money to go and buy a house, £140,000 or £150,000, something like that.”
The prosecution had previously explained during its summary of the case that Ben Field had received £142,000 from the sale of Mr Farquhar's house after his death.
When asked by Mr Saxby if Ben Field had said anything relating to Peter Farquhar during their relationship, the witness said:
“He told me that he did drink excessively and he would have to pick him up off the floor.”
She added that she also thought it strange when he said the to her that Peter drinks a lot but that he would be there for him.
During cross examination Mr Moloney for the defence put it to Ms Eriksen-Grey that Ben Field did not make the comment regarding the money. She replied:
“Ok, but he did.”
Ben Field, 28, and Martyn Smith, 32, are charged with one count of murder, one charge of conspiracy to murder, three counts of fraud, one count of possession of an article for the use in fraud, and one count of burglary.
Additionally, Ben Field is charged with one count of attempted murder.
Tom Field, 24, is charged with fraud.
The trial continues.