The Church of England has cast doubt over claims made in a television documentary that it had reasons to believe the Maids Moreton murderer Ben Field might be a psychopath.
On Monday the 13 January, Channel Four broadcast 'Catching a Killer', a documentary on the murder of Peter Farquhar in October 2015, for which a former University of Buckingham student, Ben Field, was found guilty and sentenced to 36 years in prison.
During the programme, Principal Investigator, DCI Mark Glover said the following:
“We've learnt that Ben Field underwent psychological testing as part of his induction into the ministry and the psychotherapist had concerns that Field could be a psychopath.”
Since we know that Field was only days away from presenting to a Bishop's Advisory Panel (BAP), the final stage of the Church's discernment process before potentially being accepted for three years of ordination training, this paper wanted to find out if the Church had any concerns about how it had dealt with Ben Field.
The Venerable Guy Elsmore, Archdeacon of Buckinghamshire said:
“The Church did not receive a clinical diagnosis of psychopathic behaviour (aka anti-social personality disorder). It is true to say that serious concerns began to emerge in the months prior to his arrest. Not that we thought him dangerous, but that he was lacking in empathy for others. This was the rationale for his referral to the counsellor prior to a selection panel.
“Ben Field was able to imitate some elements of a personal calling to ordained ministry, but despite his best efforts he was not considered a strong candidate for ordination training. As concerns about his relationships and sense of vocation began to emerge, he was told that he faced further psychological testing.
“It is not unusual for inexperienced or unsuitable candidates to put themselves forward for the discernment process only to find that the Bishops Advisory Panel does not recommend them to go forward for ordination training.
“The decision was taken to allow attendance at the BAP to go ahead. Concerns around the selection criteria of ‘Personality and Character’ were written in to the BAP papers.”
Another source from the Church of England told us:
“A few people were left with some concern that Ben had been outed as a psychopath and was allowed to continue his training and that's wrong on several fronts.”
However, The Bucks Herald has spoken to the counsellor who was contracted by the Church of England to work with Ben Field, and they have confirmed to us that the word 'psychopath' was used in their assessments in relation to Field.
Regarding Church processes going forward, the Archdeacon of Buckinghamshire stated that an independent review is in progress:
“Although this is an exceptional and extraordinary case, we want to explore if there is anything more we could do to stop a future Ben Field. An independent review is underway to look at how Field was able to groom and make vulnerable such large numbers of people.”
Thames Valley Police provided us with the following statement:
“The comment made by Principal Investigator Mark Glover in the Catching a Killer documentary, in which he referenced that an assessment into Ben Field’s mental health had been carried out and that this had concluded Ben Field was a psychopath, was accurate.
“However, how this assessment was carried out, by whom and anything else to do with the church’s processes, would be a matter for the church to comment on.”
The Church of England also told us that Ben Field had strong references from the congregation in Stowe, where he had been a deputy warden since September 2014, and from others in the community.
We asked the Church about these references and received the following reply:
“For data protection reasons we cannot reveal who provided recommendations beyond the general knowledge that he had strong support from the local church and those outside the church.”