A church warden, dubbed “cruel and calculating,” has been convicted of murdering a pensioner, in a failed bid to inherit his estate.
Conman, Benjamin Field, 28, was convicted of killing retired teacher, Peter Farquhar, 69, then attempting to cover up the crime by making his death look like an accident or suicide.
Field poisoned and defrauded Mr Farquhar in order to inherit his wealth when he died.
During the trial the defendant admitted that he had carried out a sustained campaign of so called ‘gaslighting’ – where he psychologically manipulated Mr Farquhar, along with a neighbour, 83-year-old Ann Moore-Martin, who also died in suspicious circumstances.
Field was charged with the murder of Mr Farquhar and conspiracy to murder Ms Moore-Martin. Whilst a jury found him guilty of killing Mr Farquhar, he was cleared of the charges relating to Ms Moore-Martin’s death.
During the trial, the court heard how Field befriended both pensioners who were vulnerable and lonely. He conned them into thinking he cared for them, encouraging them to change their Wills in his favour.
Matters took a further sinister turn when Field then began a campaign of physical and mental torture which the Crown Prosecution Service likened to a “plot from a novel”.
During the trial, it was revealed that Field had a “profound fascination in controlling, manipulating, humiliating and killing”.
The prosecution argued that he had devised an “intricate plot” to physically and mentally torture his victims including drugging, alcohol poisoning, suffocation, falls, attempts to cause heart failure, car crashes and unwitting overdoses.
Evidence also came to light which suggested Field had drawn up a list of “top 100” potential future victims, including both his own parents and grandparents.
Senior investigating officer, Mark Glover, told the court that Field was: “Cruel, calculating, manipulative, deceitful. I don’t think evil is too strong a word for him.”
Following the guilty verdict, Mr Farquhar’s brother, Ian, said: “Listening to the trial and hearing Ben Field give his evidence about what he did to Peter has been extremely difficult. His actions have been unbelievably callous, and he has told lie after lie after lie in order to achieve his goals, deceiving everyone he met.”
Lee McClellan, a Partner with Palmers, who specialises in Wills and disputes, said: “This extremely sad case highlights the issue of financial abuse involving the vulnerable and elderly.
“Notwithstanding the fact that in England and Wales an individual has the right to leave their estate to whomever they choose; if a vulnerable, elderly person decides, out of the blue, to change their Will to benefit someone who has suddenly entered their life – particularly if it involves a large gift of assets – then this should ring alarm bells.
“In such circumstances it is possible to challenge the Will and if it is found that the testator (the person making the Will) was put under undue pressure, it can be invalidated.”
If you are concerned about the validity of a Will or need advice or support on matters involving a vulnerable, elderly relative, please contact us.