A church warden who started a sexual relationship with a gay lecturer as part of a gaslighting campaign aimed at being written into his will has been found guilty of his murder.
Benjamin Field, 28, secretly fed Peter Farquhar, 69, a diet of psychedelic drugs in his tea and chocolate in a bid to make him kill himself and get hold of his inheritance.
Oxford Crown Court heard lonely Mr Farquhar had believed the younger man was in love with him and they even exchanged vows during an official betrothal ceremony.
However Field also had a string of girlfriends and was in a sexual relationship with Mr Farquahr’s neighbour, spinster Ann Moore-Martin, who was 57 years his senior.
Field admitted to also gaslighting Miss Moore-Martin, writing messages on her mirrors purporting to be from God, in an attempt to be written into her will.
Prosecutors told Oxford Crown Court that Field targeted Miss Moore-Martin a few months after killing Mr Farquhar, but he was acquitted of her attempted murder.
Field’s co-accused, magician Martyn Smith, 32, was acquitted by the jury, who found him not guilty.
Over a two-year period, Field drugged the university lecturer and encouraged him to drink alcohol – a deadly combination that made him believe he was losing his mind.
It was all part of his plan to get the lecturer, who lived in the quaint village of Maids Moreton in Buckinghamshire, to commit suicide.
To convince him he was losing his mind, Field admitted perpetrating ‘gaslighting’ on Mr Faruqhar by moving things around in his home.
Field persuaded Mr Farquhar that he was doing ‘strange things’ such as putting a crystal glass in the freezer and deleting all the contacts in his phone.
He also told him he had smashed a prized framed picture, but Field’s diary entries showed he had recorded himself doing these things.
Mr Farquhar sought the help of specialist brain doctors as he thought he was losing his mind – though none of them could find out what was wrong with him.
Field told Mr Farquhar’s friends and neighbours that the retired lecturer had taken to drink, the jury heard.
In August 2015, he spiked him with the powerful psychedelic drug 2CB on the day of his book launch.
As Mr Farquhar prepared for a ceremony to celebrate the release of his third novel, A Wide Wide Sea, he found his head was beginning to swim.
Those who met him at the book launch, the jury heard, watched on as he struggling to sign books or string a sentence together.
Field, playing the part of a concerned friend, told attendees that Mr Farquhar was becoming an alcoholic, and he was getting worse.
When he was found dead by his cleaner on October 26, 2016, slumped in a chair next to a bottle of whiskey, his death was put down to acute alcohol intoxication.
Field admitted being in relationships with Mr Farquhar and Miss Moore-Martin as part of his plot to get them to change their wills but denied involvement in their deaths.
Mr Farquhar, who was torn about his sexuality because of his religion, died in October 2015, while Miss Moore-Martin died in May 2017 from natural causes.
Prosecutors said Field had a ‘profound fascination in controlling and manipulating and humiliating and killing’.
The PhD student was a prolific writer, documenting his thoughts and activities in diaries and journals.
Field had also drawn up a ‘100 clients’ list, including his parents, grandparents and brother, which the prosecution said were future targets.
He denied murdering University of Buckingham lecturer Mr Farquhar and maintained he could have died from taking his usual dose of flurazepam and drinking whisky.
Following his death, Field inherited £20,000 moved his intentions on to Ms Moore-Martin, a devout Catholic who had never lived with a man or had children.
The former headmistress became a gushing schoolgirl when Field wood her with proclamations of love conveyed in letters and poems.
Field moved in with the 83-year-old and they began a sexual relationship, even snapped a picture of her performing a sex act on him as part of a blackmail plot.
The mental torture began when religious Ms Moore-Martin spotted messages, scrawled in felt pen, written on her mirrors which read ‘Ben needs prayer and he loves you’ and ‘All that you give him will be returned tenfold.’
She became full of zeal and excitedly told Field the messages were written by God, the jury heard, a sign she should make him a beneficiary of her will.
Ms Moore-Martin was so taken in by the deception that she contacted her solicitor and asked for her will to be changed to include Field.
The court heard the call set off an alarm bell for solicitor Diana Davis, as this was the second elderly pensioner to contact her asking to make Field a beneficiary.
Following the mental assault, Ms Moore-Martin’s health deteriorated and she was taken to hospital after suffering a seizure.
It was there that she mentioned to a friend that Ben had been giving her a powder to help her sleep, claiming it was ‘better than what the doctors had given me’.
Ms Moore-Martin’s niece, Anne-Marie Blake became aware of this and contacted the police, meaning Field was immediately barred from seeing Ms Moore-Martin.
Away from his toxic influence, Ms Moore-Martin came to realise the deceit which had been carried out on her, cut Field out of her will and gave interviews to the police about what had happened.
Two weeks later she died on May 11, 2017.
Benjamin Field showed no emotion as the jury forewoman returned the verdicts.
When his brother, who was on bail, was released from the dock he hugged his parents.
Mr Justice Sweeney adjourned sentencing against Field until a date to be fixed after ordering a pre-sentence psychiatric report. He was remanded into custody.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Alexander Robertson