Seduced by the toyboy torturer: This retired headmistress thought she had found love with a churchwarden. But she was 81, he was 25… and a twisted psychopath who had recently murdered his elderly gay lover
On Saturday, we told how Benjamin Field snared innocent and lonely Peter Farquhar, convincing the much older man he loved him, becoming the beneficiary of his estate, then tormenting him for months before killing him.
Today, in the concluding part, we reveal how Field was finally caught . . .
The love letters that Ben Field sent Ann Moore-Martin early in their ill-fated relationship left her in little doubt that he had fallen for her both emotionally and physically.
‘Lust aside, I love you very deeply,’ he told her in one letter — a somewhat surprising declaration, given that he was 25 at the time and she was 81.
Despite the age gap of 56 years, Ann, a retired primary school headmistress and devout Catholic, was as besotted with the Baptist minister’s son as he seemed to be with her. When he sent her a framed photograph of himself, inscribed with the words ‘I am always with you’, she gave it pride of place on the wall above her dressing table.
According to her niece Anne-Marie Blake, she was acting like ‘a lovesick teenager’.
To Ann, who was unmarried and had lived with her elderly mother until her death in the 1990s, it must have seemed wonderful to have found love so late in life. But it was not the first time Field had declared undying devotion to someone many years his senior.
Indeed, the last person was another retired teacher, 69-year-old Peter Farquhar, who lived just three doors away from Ann in Maids Moreton, a village on the edge of the quiet Home Counties town of Buckingham.
The handout file photo issued by Thames Valley Police of retired primary school headmistress Ann-Moore Martin
The two men were partners for four years but, as I explained in Saturday’s Mail, that relationship came to an abrupt end when, after persuading Peter to change his will in his favour, Field murdered him in his own living room, somehow persuading or coercing him into consuming a dangerous combination of the sedative flurazepam and whisky, then suffocating him with a cushion.
As a former prison governor and now a criminologist, I have dealt with killers all my professional life.
In a close-knit community where everyone knows almost everyone else, it seemed extraordinary that Field had got away with Peter’s murder in the first place — and more unbelievable still that he dared to strike so very close to the site of his first crime in targeting his neighbour, Ann Moore-Martin.
Being what we criminologists call a ‘process-focused killer’, one who likes to string out their victim’s suffering, Field had subjected Peter to months of mental torment, secretly drugging him with sedatives and hallucinogens. And he was no less cruel to Ann Moore-Martin.
Before she met Field, this ‘bright and bubbly’ personality, as her niece described her, showed no sign of any decline in the lively mind which had seen her through a lifetime of teaching.
In May 2015, she had scored normally in a test identifying the early signs of dementia in the elderly. But she was no match for Ben Field as he set about seducing her almost immediately after Peter’s death in October 2015.
As a deputy churchwarden at Stowe Parish Church, he was trusted by the congregation and if, as he intended, he had gone on to become a priest, he could have added many further names to the hit-list of about 100 potential victims, including his parents, that was discovered after his arrest.
That list is also likely to have featured residents of the Red House Nursing Home in Maids Moreton where he worked part-time to fund his studies.
Ben Field set about seducing Ann-Moore Martin almost immediately after Peter’s death in October 2015
Detectives would later find a video of him taunting an elderly woman there about her isolation and loneliness — but to Ann MooreMartin he presented himself as a kind fellow Christian and she quickly fell for him.
‘She said she loved him,’ her sister-in-law Gillian Moore-Martin recalled. ‘They would sit together on the sofa and he would put his arm round her and fluff his eyelashes down her cheek.’
He showed Ann a DVD of the film Harold And Maude, about an elderly woman who meets a much younger man, and also talked about Edward Lear’s poem The Owl And The Pussycat as an example of how lovers can be very different but still find happiness.
When he went away on holiday, he wrote to her every day, signing off ‘With Love & In Christ, Ben.’
Even while proclaiming his eternal devotion, Field was thinking about ways of killing Ann. Detailed in tiny writing in notebooks found by the police after his arrest, these included making it look as if she had choked on her dentures or fallen down the stairs.
Another option was to give her a heart attack, possibly during sex —for their relationship had quickly become physical.
Field had even persuaded her to perform an intimate act on him while all the time filming on his mobile phone. This gave him something with which to blackmail her if things didn’t develop as he wished.
Once he had reeled Ann in, he began defrauding her.
In summer 2016 he inherited £20,000 from Peter’s will and, later that year, another £142,000 from the sale of the house Peter had also bequeathed to him. He used part of this money to buy a £97,000 flat in Towcester, Northamptonshire, about 12 miles from Buckingham — but still he was greedy for more.
When he told Ann he needed a new car, she gave him £4,400, which he kept, hiring a car for the day to make her think he had used the money as she intended.
Later he lied that his younger brother had kidney problems and needed money to buy a dialysis machine he could use while studying at university. On that occasion, Ann handed Field £27,000.
Towards the end of 2016, he set his sights on a still bigger prize. He began deploying psychological tactics which included using a white marker pen to write messages on her mirrors, supposedly from God.
In photos found on his mobile phone, he can be seen in the reflection as he takes pictures of these missives, which started with an order to ‘Pray for Ben, Ben Loves You’.
Over time, the messages evolved into specific orders that Ann should leave her house to Field. Eventually she changed her will accordingly.
Giving him a key to her home, she came to rely on him as she appeared to become increasingly absent-minded, unable to find things even when she was sure she knew where she had put them. Later, Field would miraculously find them.
Baptist minister’s son Field (right) had pleaded guilty to defrauding Mr Farquhar (left) of £160,000 from his will
Of course, it was he who had moved them in the first place. This ‘gaslighting’ was a tactic he had used very successfully with Peter. Another was isolating him from friends and family — and, again, he used the same strategy on his new target.
Anne-Marie, who had seen her aunt most weekends up until the time Ben Field became a part of her life, found it increasingly difficult to get access to her.
She later described her as ‘very much under his spell’. But it was only when her aunt was admitted to hospital in February 2017, following a seizure, that Anne-Marie finally got a chance to talk to her properly about her relationship with Field.
On learning that Ann had changed her will in his favour, she became so worried that she contacted the police.
When they discovered that Field was also a beneficiary of Peter Farquhar’s will, he was arrested on suspicion of murder, only five days before he was due to be interviewed by a Church of England panel which would decide whether to put him forward for three years of ordination training.
At that point, there wasn’t enough forensic evidence to charge him. He was released on police bail, pending further investigations, and banned from contacting Ann Moore-Martin, who was mortified at finding she had been so duped.
‘She was tortured by it and found it very difficult to get her head around the betrayal,’ Anne-Marie said in court. ‘She said to me, “I’m such an intelligent woman, how could I let this happen to me?”’
Aerial view of Manor Park in Maids Moreton, near Buckingham, Buckinghamshire of the former homes of Peter Farquhar
She died of natural causes that May, having spent the last few months of her life dreading the humiliation of Field’s deception was ever made public.
That Field had no concern for what he had done became apparent later that year. In October he preached a sermon at his father’s church, about 20 miles away in Olney, Northamptonshire. Astoundingly, he chose to speak about the biblical commandment ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’.
In the sermon, now removed from the church’s website, he argued that when it came to killing, ‘legally enforced norms are less important than one’s personal convictions’. In other words, you should be permitted to kill whenever you deem it necessary.
The temptation is to see this as a sort of tasteless psychological dare he gave himself — go on, see if you can get away with this! But I believe he spoke in all seriousness, because psychopaths feel justified in what they have done and he was unable to see that his sermon might have been inappropriate or offensive.
For such killers, murder is a means to an end and, although financial gain was the immediate prize in this instance, the overriding aim is to satisfy their need to feel powerful and omnipotent.
In their own minds, they are God-like — and Field’s narcissism was apparent even after he was finally charged with murder in November 2018.
By then, Peter Farquhar’s body had been exhumed and samples of his hair revealed traces of two hallucinogenic drugs recovered from Field’s home, with his fingerprints on the packaging.
Church warden Ben Field (right) was convicted of murdering Peter Farquhar (left). The pensioner, who was gay, was duped into ‘marriage’ and signed over his house to Field
During the 77-day trial, which began at Oxford Crown Court in April 2019, Field chose to give evidence in his own defence — highly unusual for someone charged with murder.
I was in court that day and he came across like a rather cocksure student in a seminar — one who had done all the reading, worked out everything for himself, and was now going to dazzle us all with his brilliance. The jury was not convinced and found him guilty of murder.
He was sentenced to a minimum term of 36 years. But while this brings one form of closure, there are things that need to be acknowledged about what happened — as there were with Harold Shipman, the trusted GP who killed possibly as many as 260 of his overwhelmingly elderly patients.
Just as nobody was prepared to challenge the word of a doctor like him, so Field disarmed people by gaining respected positions within both the Church and the university, where at one point he was teaching undergraduate seminars.
Although the Church published a ‘lessons learned’ review, it seemed keen to see Field as pursuing a ‘scam’ which was ‘unique’, rather than reflecting more widely on how other killers might be prevented from gaining positions of trust as churchwardens and even vicars.
The University of Buckingham, too, needs to be more open about its failure to question what a student in his 20s was doing staying in the home of a man in his 60s who was also, at some stage, responsible for that student’s instruction and supervision.
This awful case has also made me think very deeply about the town I am happy to call my home. It was only after Peter’s death that people started to come forward, whispering that they weren’t sure the stories Field had been spreading were true. But by then it was too late.
It was fortunate for Ann Moore-Martin that her niece realised what was happening and had the courage to go to the police. And it was lucky for the town of Buckingham, too.
Had he not been caught, I am convinced that Field could have enjoyed his perverted power to do as he pleased for decades to come, a prolific serial killer relying not least on the respect for space and privacy which makes us so reluctant to poke our noses into other people’s business — even if that business is murder.
- Adapted from A Plot To Kill: A True Story Of Deception, Betrayal And Murder In A Quiet English Town, by David Wilson, published on June 17 by Little Brown at £20. © David Wilson 2021. To order a copy for £17.80 (offer valid to 30/6/21; P&P free), visit www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193.
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