The trial of Field, Smith and Field finished last Friday with the conviction of the principal defendant, Ben Field, of the murder of the retired English teacher, Peter Farquhar. The trial (which had commenced on 30th April) was of the utmost complexity and gravity. Oliver Saxby QC was leading for the Crown, assisted by Michael Roques (of the CPS) and Mark Davies. They were instructed by Robbie Weber of Thames Chiltern, Complex Casework Unit.
The case attracted widespread media interest, not least because of the criminality of the first defendant, Ben Field. In 2011, Mr Field, then aged in his early 20s and a student at the University of Buckingham, had befriended a lecturer and retired teacher, Peter Farquhar – then aged in his mid 60s. Mr Farquhar lived on his own in a village near Buckingham called Maids Moreton. In time, Mr Field moved in, a sexual relationship commenced and Mr Field set about the task of getting Mr Farquhar to change his will in Mr Field’s favour.
This much, Mr Field came in due course to accept. At the same time, however, he was plotting Mr Farquhar’s death so as to make it look like either suicide or the death of an alcoholic. With this in mind, Mr Field started drugging Mr Farquhar with sedatives. He also encouraged Mr Farquhar to drink more alcohol. The one accentuated the effects of the other; and, in due course, ignorant of what Mr Field was doing, those who knew Mr Farquhar began to assume that Mr Farquhar had a problem with alcohol.
A bi-product of Mr Field’s treatment of Mr Farquhar was that Mr Farquhar began to believe that he was going mad – a worry promulgated by the ‘gaslighting’ Mr Field was performing on Mr Farquhar. Possessions would suddenly go missing – only to turn up in odd places, Mr Farquhar would be told events had occurred that had not occurred and so on. One particularly unpleasant trick Mr Field played on Mr Farquhar was to give him a hallucinogenic drug, 2C-B, on two occasions when Mr Field knew Mr Farquhar would be in the presence of other people. Seeing Mr Farquhar hallucinating – for no apparent reason – only reinforced the view that he was ‘losing it’.
When, then, in October 2015, Mr Farquhar was found dead by his cleaner with a half-empty bottle of whisky nearby, it was assumed that he had drunk himself to death. A coronial autopsy only served to confirm this suspicion, his blood alcohol content being consistent with death by alcohol/positional asphyxiation.
Mr Field duly accrued his inheritance and then set about trying to persuade one of Mr Farquhar’s neighbours, Anne Moore-Martin, to change her will as well. Mrs Moore-Martin was in her early 80s. Like Mr Farquhar, she was a retired teacher. Like Mr Farquhar, she was lonely. Like Mr Farquhar, she was religious. And, like Mr Farquhar, she was trusting. Soon, at Mr Field’s instigation, their relationship became sexual; and, in due course, he persuaded her, too, to change her will in his favour – writing messages on mirrors which Mrs Moore-Martin came to believe were from God and which told her to leave him her house.
In May 2017, Mrs Moore-Martin had a massive stroke and died. By then, her niece had alerted the police, Mr Field had been arrested and Mrs Moore-Martin had changed her will back. The police investigation culminated in Mr Field being charged, along with two others; and the trial duly commenced on 30th April 2019.
The trial was unique in its gravity and complexity. In all, the served case ran to over 23,000 pages – comprising notes, records and diaries made by Mr Field, the daily journals kept by Mr Farquhar and correspondence between Mr Field and Mrs Moore-Martin. There was also a substantial quantity of expert evidence (the areas of expertise included pathology, neuropathology, histopathology, neurology, toxicology, geriatric psychiatry, hepatology and neuroradiology). And there was also significant ‘lay witness evidence’ from those who knew Mr Farquhar and Mrs Moore-Martin and saw their interaction with Mr Field.
The challenge for the Crown was to refine down the relevant evidence and present it in a way that was comprehensible to the jury. In short, 5 years’ worth of relevant, often daily, contact between a number of people had to be adduced in a way that allowed the jury to see the nuances involved without losing sight of the wider picture. This required rigorous analysis of the real issues in the case and a constant dialogue within the team in the lead-up to trial as to what was significant and what in truth was not.
Come the trial, the Crown’s case was presented in a chronological order using a greatly condensed Timeline as the basis. Live evidence was called as required. Any agreed evidence was either refined down into Agreed Facts (these ran to about 50 pages in all) or summarised in ‘Read Evidence’ schedules (these ran to about the same number of pages). And the jury were taken to the documentary material as it became relevant within the context of the Timeline, which was cross-referenced as appropriate. Thus, not one statement was ‘read’ to the jury; and, instead, the material the jury was given was efficiently and logically presented in a way that was easy to follow and avoided repetition and irrelevant material apt to distract.
As to the expert evidence, it was essential that they jury was able to follow it, of course; and, in that it was equivocal on so many issues, it was also important that it was seen within the greater context of the case. The Crown presented the expert evidence towards the end of its case, when the principal issues were settled and the architecture of the case more familiar to the jury.
As to the specific areas, the pathology and histopathology related to the causes of death of Mr Farquhar and Mrs Moore-Martin – the latter having died from natural causes, the former having died from the effects of alcohol and, it transpired sedative (traces of which were found in Mr Farquhar’s system at a second, forensic post mortem). The neuropathology, neurology, neuroradiology and geriatric psychiatry related to the question of whether any of Mr Farquhar or Mrs Moore-Martin’s symptoms could be ascribed to drugging by Mr Field (or else whether they were natural in origin). The toxicology touched on the same area, and also the admitted drugging of Mr Farquhar by Mr Field – with hair analysis evidence forming an important part of the Crown’s case. The hepatology was relevant to the extent to which, in fact, Mr Farquhar was the alcoholic which, by implication, it was Mr Field’s case that he was.
The experts called by the Crown included Drs Morley (toxicology/pathology), Lockyer (pathology), Hunt (pathology), Al Sarraj (neuropathology), Offiah (neuroradiology), Cirimele (toxicology), Series (geriatric psychiatry), Bailey (neurology), Gimson (hepatology) and Hubscher (hepatology).
Aside from the factual complexity of the case, the trial involved significant issues of law – for instance on the extent to which someone could be guilty of murder if all they did was encourage the victim to take their own life. The overlap between the offences of encouraging to commit suicide and murder is not an area with much settled law; and, as a result, a considerable amount of research was involved in placing before the Court caselaw of potential relevance. The authorities quoted included Howe, Hughes, Nicklin, Kennedy, Corbett, Dear, Morant, Grotjohn, Agliotti, Hibbert, Maybin and Wallace.
Sentencing has been adjourned to a later date.
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