A church warden has admitted drugging and gaslighting his elderly victim, but has denied being responsible for his murder.
Benjamin Field was also accused of plotting to steal the inheritances of elderly people in a quiet village and was today challenged by his own defence barrister over whether he thought saying ‘interesting’ things was more important than the truth.
The 28-year-old was giving evidence at Oxford Crown Court on the first day of his defence case against the charges of murder and gas-lighting in the village of Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire.
The church warden is said to have had a profound fascination in controlling, humiliating, manipulating and killing, the jury heard.
He denied murdering 69-year-old Peter Farquhar, but admitted to secretly feeding him powerful drugs, while pretending to be in a loving relationship with him – before tricking him into changing his will.
Field, the prosecutors had told jurors, was obsessed with elderly people and death – and that was why he had murdered his former university lecturer and attempted to murder an elderly neighbour by poisoning them both.
After stepping into the witness box today, Field told the jury: ‘I did not see any relationship between using language and truth, at all.’
His lawyer, David Jeremy QC, reminded him that he had taken an oath to tell the truth. Field said: ‘I am saying things that I believe. I do not really know that I am expected to say these things either. These are my true sentiments. Absolutely.’
After tricking Mr Farquhar into changing his will it was alleged Field then killed his former lecturer, who he met while a student at the University of Buckingham and made it look like Mr Farquhar had drunk himself to death.
As defence lawyer Mr Jeremy took Field through his early years, he asked him what his sexual orientation was, to which Field replied ‘heterosexual’, but he admitted he had had homosexual experiences.
Field added: ‘That took the form of, I think on five occasions, receiving oral sex for money – between £30 and £50.
‘These were listings on the website Craigslist. I was receiving both the oral sex and the money. I was aged 20 years at the time. They just request a sexual encounter and I met them at hotels.’
Mr Jeremy asked him how he found those experiences and he said: ‘Neither pleasurable nor objectionable. I think money was a secondary thing. I think it was just about trying to push my own boundaries.’
Oliver Saxby QC, prosecuting during the trial, also told the jury of six men and six women how Field had confessed to wooing 83-year-old Ann Moore-Martin with eloquent love letters and poems as part of a plan to subsequently break her mind in a ‘gaslighting’ campaign and get her inheritance too.
Field admitted these charges again before the jury in court, as Mr Jeremy asked him to spell out the crimes he had already admitted.
The defendant said: ‘The initial lie was that I loved [Mr Farquahar]. Is that beyond the established friendship that we had, his feelings for me that he had that went beyond the plutonic were reciprocated by me. But they were not.’
Explaining why he did it, Field said: ‘To inherit. To increase my status in his mind and his life and thereby stand to inherit when he ultimately died.’
He admitted drugging and gaslighting Mr Farquhar again, and Mr Jeremy asked him how he felt about Mr Farquhar.
Field said: ‘Mixed. I had a great deal of affection for him as a friend. We had a huge amount in common. We’d spent a lot of time together over the previous two years.
‘I also found parts of him despicable. We had more in common than simply a love of literature. But parts of myself, like being secretive or grudge holding, he did too. I think because of how I felt about myself, I despised him for it.’
Explaining how he gaslighted Peter Farquhar, Field said: ‘Moving things. So that he wouldn’t find them. To irritate him. I did it vindictively and to confuse him.’
His defence counsel asked him: ‘You did that to someone to whom you had a great deal of affection? Is that what you’re saying?’
Field said: ‘Yes. Yes I am.’
Speaking to the jury Field once again denied murder Mr Farquhar and attempting to murder Ms Moore-Martin, although he admitted gaslighting her and pretending to be in a relationship.
Mr Jeremy asked Field to read out an email entitled, ‘an email about Peter’ which he had written and in which he had said Peter was a closeted homosexual and he had a problematic attraction to young boys. He said he was a bad writer.
Mr Jeremy asked him why he had written the email and Field replied: ‘That was a way of expressing something, to talk about the genuine and tender aspects of friendship was something I found difficult, even when I felt them.
‘Even in a note to myself, that was not for anyone else, always I am looking to be interesting to myself, and in this document and many others, interesting is the things that are unresolved and conflicted and rooted in conflict and contradiction. It is a partial account.
‘At the time of this, I did not see any relationship between using language and truth.’
Mr Jeremy asked him whether it was more important to be interesting than tell the truth.
Field answered: ‘It is not, but at the time of writing this I thought that it was. I was engaged at studying literature, at a fairly low level, reading things that aren’t necessarily true, but are interesting.’
Co-defendant Martyn Smith, aged 32 years, who the jury had heard was a follower of Field, but was also accused of the murder and murder bid, and benefitted from Mr Farquhar’s inheritance, watched from the dock as Field gave evidence.
Also in the dock was Tom Field, aged 23 years and Olney, who is Benjamin Field’s brother. He was charged with fraud by false representation.
The prosecutor told the jury this was in relation to an alleged incident where the two Field brothers and Smith convinced Ms Ann Moore-Martin that Tom Field needed £27,000 to buy a kidney dialysis machine so he could remain at university. He denies fraud.
Martyn Smith, of Cornwall, denies all the charges against him – one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of conspiracy to murder, three counts of fraud, one count of burglary and one count of possession of an article for use in fraud, namely the will of Liz Zettl.
Benjamin Field is charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of conspiracy to murder, one count of burglary, three counts of fraud and one count of possession of an article for use in fraud – also in relation to Ms Zettl’s will. He has admitted the three fraud counts and the burglary.
The trial continues.
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