A close of Peter Farquhar, the respected Stowe school teacher, author and university lecturer, who was murdered by Ben Field in Maids Moreton, paid tribute to his friend and mentor this week.
Last week, Field, 28, a former student at the University of Buckingham, was found guilty of murdering Peter Farquhar in October 2015 at Peter’s home in Manor Park.
While the trial was still in progress, I received an email from a man who said he had been a lifelong friend of Peter Farquhar's and that he would like to contribute to my overview of the case, particularly in relation to his friend, once the trial was over.
This weekend, thanks to the wonders of modern telecommunications, we had a conversation, despite the fact that my contact is currently on holiday in Crete with his family.
It quickly became clear that Richard Searby had indeed been good friends with Peter for around 32 years - and he had also met Ben Field on a few occasions.
Richard told me he was raised in Princes Risborough and Stone, and is now an English teacher himself, at a school in North London. He told me that his career choice was largely due to advice received from Peter.
Richard said: “I was going to read history at university but I was quite heavily persuaded by Peter that that was the wrong choice and he was right. I went and did English and I'm now an English teacher.”
Richard explained how Peter came into his life as an English teacher at Stowe School in the mid-80s.
“He was really just the most inspiring English teacher and person. He was a very slight man physically, and it was easy to underestimate him. But he was very formidable and once you got to know him you realised he had a very acerbic wit and we all really respected him.”
Richard described how Peter was “a great help” and “a great adviser” even after he had left Stowe.
Later Peter became close with Richard's family, often staying with them.
Richard said: “He was always very thoughtful, very kind, he always talked about other people, he'd ask how I was, how my family were and so on. He had a great relationship with my mother particularly, who thought very highly of him.”
He added: “He was always a very good guest, great company and we loved having him.”
As well as his well-documented love of literature, Richard told me that Peter also loved theatre, talking about politics and travelling.
One thing they didn't speak about was Peter's sexuality and the religious conflict this gave rise to within Peter's mind, that came out during the trial.
Richard explained: “I don't recall ever speaking with him about his sexuality. I was never certain actually, though I may be naïve here, but I was never certain about his sexuality.”
Moving on to discussing how Ben Field came into Peter's life and what Richard knew about their relationship, he explained that he thought Ben was just a lodger and a friend, and that he knew nothing of anything more significant, such as the betrothal.
He said Peter always referred to “the boys”, meaning Ben Field and Martyn Smith, the latter of whom was found not guilty of all charges brought against him.
Richard continued: “He was always consistent that the boys were caring for him. I had no reason to suspect that anything was wrong. I absolutely regret that now, as many of his friends do.”
I pressed Richard a little further to think about what he had thought about Ben with regards to Peter, and he said: “I think the words I would probably use are rather inconsequential.”
However, he did describe the following incident that occurred just one month before Ben Field murdered Peter:
"On September 26, 2015, I took Peter out for a lengthy walk around the grounds at Stowe. By that point he was clearly unwell, very slow walking, and I was very concerned about him.
"I took him home and I was quite concerned that Ben should be there for me to hand him over, if that makes sense, and Ben was there, but then what was a bit strange was that Ben then followed me out of the house and drove behind me through Buckingham.
"When we got to the Aylesbury Road he turned around without a wave or a flash of the lights. It was a slightly odd, weird experience and I felt like I was being shepherded out of Buckingham."
Richard's final association with Ben Field was at Peter's funeral. I asked him about Ben's demeanour on the day.
He said: “He was quite perky. Not laughing and joking or anything, but he seemed rather unbothered.”
Before the end of our conversation, Richard reflected upon his late friend.
He said: "I'll always remember him as a very clever, quick witted, very funny, erudite man. He could be quite forceful and he didn't take fools gladly.”
"Peter was an amazing man, an amazing character, and I hope that will be reflected. He was a wonderful friend."