Updated: Maids Moreton murder trial opens at Oxford Crown Court

Peter Farquhar
Peter Farquhar

Three men who stand accused over the deaths of two Maids Moreton pensioners are standing trial this week.

On Wednesday morning prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC began to lay out the case against Ben Field, Martyn Smith and Tom Field - who stand accused of a range of charges related to incidents which ended in the deaths of Peter Farquhar and Anne Moore-Martin.

Oxford Crown Court

Oxford Crown Court

He said: "This case concerns the murder of a 69 year old man, Peter Farquhar and the attempted murder of an 83 year old woman, Anne Moore-Martin.

"The motive was financial gain laced with controlling, manipulating, humiliating and killing.

"They deceived the victims into changing their wills to inherit their houses. To achieve this the victims had to die and the defendants had to get away with it.

"For Ben Field this was a project. It was to befriend victims, get them to change their wills and make sure they die.

Mr Saxby claimed in his opening address that the 'project' became Ben Field's life work for which he was proud and that he had made a list of potential victims with the heading 'clients'.

The prosecution alleges that Field killed Peter Farquhar, almost certainly by suffocating him and that he tried to kill Anne Moore-Martin but was thwarted when her niece intervened.

Mr Saxby added: "It maybe that you end up concluding that he could not form normal, empathetic, caring relationships."

The prosecution alleges that for Ben Field to carry out his grand design he needed help and he found that in Martyn Smith.

The court heard that Martyn Smith was greedy and was impressed by Ben Field, and that one witness called him 'a follower'.

It is alleged that Tom Field became involved on the margins, relating to deceiving Anne Moore-Martin out of £20k for a kidney dialysis machine. Tom played along with it by pretending to be extremely ill when he was introduced to Anne Moore-Martin.

As the afternoon session began the court heard about the two victims.

Mr Saxby first described Peter Farquhar.

Mr Farquhar retired in 2004 and between 2010-2015 he wrote four novels, he was in the middle of a 5th at the time of his death, called Namibian Nights.

The court heard that Mr Farquhar was a committed Anglican Christian and friends described him as organised kind and thoughtful whose Christian faith was important to him.

He was well-travelled, positive, stable and never seemed down. He was fiercely private and as one friend said: "A moral man, a highly respected teacher of English. An intelligent man."

The court also heard that Mr Farquhar was cautious with money, and owned his own home outright.

Prior to the alleged scheme involving Ben Field and Martyn Smith, Mr Farquhar's brother Ian and his two sons had been due to inherit his estate.

Mr Saxby also described Mr Farquhar as lonely - and that although he was not reclusive he was 'emotionally lonely'.

He was also gay and found his sexuality difficult to come to terms with in relation to his religious beliefs.

Mr Saxby said Mr Farquhar was “acutely vulnerable to the overtures the first two defendants made.”

The court heard that Ben Field kept a diary, and made it clear that there was a “commerciality” to his relationship with Peter.

In one diary entry he wrote: "He gives me a room and makes me dinner and he gets to win at chess and has some company."

Anne Moore-Martin was born in 1933, she was unmarried and had no children.

The court heard that the practising Catholic was an intensely private person and 'fundamentally lonely'. She was described by people she knew as 'loving, kind affectionate and fond of dog walks'.

Saxby described the defendants plans to kill these two as: “Ruthless in conception, callous in execution" adding that the defendants' drugging of Peter Farquhar turned him into “a dribbling shambles of his former self.”

The prosecution claims that after killing Peter they moved on to Anne Moore-Martin and that Ben Field's relationship with Anne was definitely sexual as investigators found a photo on Field's mobile phone of the pair engaged in a sex act.

It is alleged that after getting to know Anne, Field “embarked on a campaign of mirror writing.”

This involved Field writing messages of a biblical nature on a mirror which Anne believed to be from God.

The court heard that when concerns were raised regarding her changing her will she said she knew she was doing the right thing because of these messages.

The prosecution says that Field took photographs of himself writing the messages.

Mr Saxby said that Anne's niece managed to convince her to reverse her decision regarding the will after a time away in hospital “effectively in quarantine from Ben.”

This ultimately led to the police being contacted, Peter's body being exhumed and a second autopsy showing far less alcohol in his system than had been suggested by the defendants at the time of his death.

Consequently arrests made in January 2018. Final charges formulated in November 2018.

Ben Field accepts planning the fraud. He accepts drugging Peter. But not to kill him. He denies murder.

Ben Field accepts defrauding Anne. Denies drugging her. Denies attempted murder.

Martyn Smith denies everything.

On Thursday morning Mr Saxby focused on two timelines in relation to Peter Farquhar Jan 2014 - Oct 2014 and Oct 2014 - Oct 2015 when Mr Farquhar died.

The addresses to the jury started with Field's personal life, and heard how - though Ben Field was living with Mr Farquhar from Jan 2014 he had various sexual relationships with women with many overlapping.

The court heard how during this time period Ben Field was using 'gas lighting' (a form of psychological torture) against Mr Farquhar on a more frequent basis.

The prosecution says that notes in Field's diary described how he hid Mr Farquhar's keys and sermon notes to make him think he was losing his mind.

This period includes March 2014, when Mr Farquhar and Ben Field held a 'betrothal ceremony' - to cement their relationship.

Mr Saxby then focused on October 2014 - until October 2015.

He said: "this is the period where his life began to disintegrate because defendants one (Ben Field) and two (Smith) were drugging him."

He added: "They encouraged it to be thought that he was becoming an alcoholic."

But following Mr Farquhar's death his liver showed no evidence of this. He also wasn't suffering from dementia.

The prosecution says that Ben Field began moving things around in the night, such as photos and telling Mr Farquhar he had done it.

Field's journal also records drugging PFs meals.

Mr Saxby says that between June and August 2015 Ben Field and Smith began drugging the pensioner with hallucinogenic drugs.

As a result he began having heavy falls and described hallucinations such as bolts of lightning - at times including when he was driving.

Mr Saxby said: "They allowed him to go out high in his car with all the dangers that entailed to himself and other road users."

He added that during the investigation friends described Mr Farquhar's downfall, saying that 'he looked glazed over' and that he 'couldn't complete a single sentence.'

One said that he looked like an 85 to 90 year old during that time.

Also during this time Mr Farquhar recorded in his diary: "I'm losing my mind like King Lear."

At this point the jury was shown a shocking video clip recorded by Ben Field of Mr Farquhar in bed talking incoherently.

On Thursday afternoon Mr Saxby focused his address on October 2015, and the events leading to Mr Farquhar's death on October 25.

In the first weeks of October there had been an increased decline in Mr Farquhar and it is alleged that Ben Field and Martyn Smith attempted to instil in the minds of his friends and family that he was a 'sad old alcoholic'.

Mr Saxby referenced the existence of many text messages between Ben Field and Martyn Smith about how their plan is progressing.

In one such message the prosecution says Smith texted Ben Field saying: "I love it when a cunning plan comes together."

Another texts documents Smith and Ben Field enjoying or celebrating an incident in which a vicar asked Mr Farquhar if he'd recently had a stroke, such was his awful appearance and posture.

Of course Smith and Ben Field knew it was a result of their drugging.

The court heard that Mr Farquhar had two hospital visits in first week of October due to heavy falls, both resulting in head injuries, one requiring an overnight stay and MRI scan. The reason for the falls being the hallucinogenic drugs that Ben Field and Smith were giving to him.

Ben Field repeatedly told paramedics Mr Farquhar was an alcoholic. But tests proved this information to be false.

On October 8 and 9 Mr Farquhar spent two nights in Red House care home following his stay in hospital to help recovery.

During this time he made an amazing recovery - which the prosecution says is because he hasn't been drugged for a few days by the defendants.

Between October 10 and October 25 his amazing recovery continued and friends commented that 'he seemed back to his usual self'.

The court heard that another friend at church said: "he seemed to have emerged from his mystery illness."

Mr Saxby then went on to outline the events directly leading up to Mr Farqhuar's death.

He said that Ben Field admits that he had dinner with Mr Farquhar the night before he died - and the prosecution alleges that at that time he drugged him with pills and alcohol - and possibly smothered the pensioner.

Mr Farquhar's body was found by a cleaner on the morning of Monday 26th October, just after 11am.

The prosecution says that Ben Field and Smith concocted a cover story whereby Ben Field would leave a bottle of whiskey at Mr Farquhar's house for Smith as a 'thank you'. But then they would claim that the bottle was found by Mr Farquhar who drank himself to death.

The note left with the whiskey read: "Have a dram. You can't be abundant without Aberlour. Just a tiny thank you. Ben."

At the time this was believed, even through a postmortem showed an amount of alcohol that is rarely lethal.

It was only after second postmortem in 2017 was it discovered that he had the sedative drugs in his system.

It was the combination of the sedatives and alcohol (and maybe smothering) that killed Mr Farquhar.

Benjamin Field, aged 28, of Wellingborough Road, Olney, and Martyn Smith, aged 32, of Penhalvean, Redruth, Cornwall have been charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of conspiracy to defraud, three counts of fraud, one count of being in possession of an article for use in fraud, two counts of burglary.

Ben Field is charged with one further count of fraud.

Tom Field, aged 24, of Wellingborough Road, Olney, is also charged with one count of fraud.

The case continues and we will continue to bring you updates as the trial continues.