The Sixth Commandment is one of the most talked-about dramas of 2023 so far, with the final episode of the BBC show revealing what became of Ben Field following his unrelenting cruelty towards his two unwitting victims.

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The series followed a neat chapter structure. The first episode focused on the relationship between sinister church warden Field (a star-making performance from Irish actor Éanna Hardwicke) and lonely university lecturer Peter Farquhar (the gut-wrenchingly great Timothy Spall).

The second episode saw Field then turn his attention to Farquhar's elderly neighbour in the sleepy Buckinghamshire village of Maids Moreton, retired headmistress Ann Moore-Martin (a heartbreaking turn from Anne Reid).

That was followed by Thames Valley Police's dogged investigation into Field's crimes, and finally, in the fourth episode, the high-profile 2019 trial at Oxford Crown Court.

How did Ben Field plea?

Baptist minister's son Field concealed his evil behind a mask of polite piety, bidding prison warders "good morning" and thanking the court clerks he came into contact with.

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He'd pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of drugging Farquhar and defrauding both victims - £160,000 from Peter's will and £31,000 in cash "gifts" from Moore-Martin - but he denied murdering Farquhar and attempting to murder Moore-Martin.

Ann reading messages written on a mirror in he home with a concerned expression on her face
Ann Moore-Martin portrayed by Anne Reid. Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle

Field boasted about getting his moment in court, convinced he'd "get away with most of it", and decided to give evidence in his own defence – most unusual for someone charged with murder.

As Farquhar's brother Ian (Adrian Rawlins) observed in the TV adaptation: "It's all a game to him. This isn't a trial, it's the Ben show and he'll be loving every moment."

Which version of Peter Farquhar's death was real?

In the TV drama, much of the case hinged on whether Field was present when Farquhar died, and whether he had systematically drugged Moore-Martin.

During the depicted trial, as prosecuting barrister Oliver Saxby QC (Happy Valley's Rick Warden) painted a verbal picture, we flashed back to 2015, where two possible reconstructions of Farquhar's last night played out.

First, we saw Field's version of events. When Farquhar left the care home, seemingly recovered, they spent the evening drinking ginger beer and watching TV. After Field left, Farquhar allegedly found a bottle of whisky left by lodger Martyn Smith (Conor MacNeill).

He then drew the curtains, turned off the lights and TV, and downed half the bottle alone in the dark.

Farquhar was found dead on his sofa by his cleaner the next day.

Timothy Spall as Peter Farquhar in The Sixth Commandment
Timothy Spall as Peter Farquhar. BBC/Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle

Then we saw the prosecution's version. A powerful imagined conversation between the pair saw the quietly furious Peter rumble that Field had been manipulating him ("I see you now").

In response, Field was cruel and foul-mouthed, showing his true colours. He bought Peter yet another drug-spiked cup of tea, prompting a terrifying bout of confusion and disorientation.

According to prosecutors, Field force-fed the whisky to Farquhar while he was too weak to resist and, when that wasn't enough to kill him, he suffocated him with a cushion. They claimed he set up the room to make it look like an accident or suicide.

Peter's final moments in either scenario weren't shown. This smart decision helped dodge the ghoulish pitfalls of lesser true-crime dramatisations.

However, we can safely assume that the latter version is much closer to what really happened on that fateful night in 2015.

Why was Ben Field cleared of some crimes but not others?

Field talked about his ability to "snake talk" his way into "an old man's house like a sociopath" in chat logs discovered on his computer. Once inside Farquhar's home, he laced his food with a cocktail of strong sedatives (eight times his normal dose of sleeping pills) and psychoactive drugs, causing hallucinations and ­cognitive problems.

Field suggested these symptoms were signs of dementia and alcoholism, sowing the seeds for the ­deception that Peter had drunk himself to death.

Crucially for the case, Field left written notes of his plan to poison his vulnerable victims, then subjected them to prolonged periods of gaslighting. Farquhar's own daily journals also proved invaluable to police.

When his body was exhumed, forensics concluded that he hadn't drunk enough ­alcohol for it to be fatal, while hair tests confirmed he'd been drugged for at least six months. It was the evidence needed to charge Field.

Ben wearing a white religious robe and stood in church with a stained glass window behind him
Éanna Hardwicke as Ben Field.

After deliberating for 19 days, the jury acquitted him of Moore-Martin's attempted murder but found him guilty of Farquhar's. Police couldn't definitively prove murder, but it all added up.

Imposing a life sentence, Mr Justice Sweeney said there was "overwhelming evidence” of murder and sentenced Field to life imprisonment with a minimum of 36 years. Field has made two unsuccessful bids to challenge his conviction at the Court of Appeal.

What was Martyn Smith's role in the drama?

Field's co-accused Martyn Smith was depicted in the BBC series as a sad figure. He was a failed magician who suffered from anxiety and depression and was seemingly groomed by fellow student Field. He was soon in thrall to the older, taller, more charismatic man, to the extent where Martyn meekly obeyed orders. In the drama, Field even repeatedly instructed him to "breathe".

He assisted Field's "manoeuvres" in Maids Moreton but became increasingly guilt-ridden and reluctant to help Field move onto his next target, Liz Zettl (Sheila Hancock).

Police accused Smith of being Field's "co-conspirator" and "scout". In reality, as Farquhar's lodger, Smith denied knowledge of the relationship, let alone drugging and fraud. He was left £10,000 in Farquhar's will but insisted this came as a surprise.

A copy of Zettl’s will was also found on Smith's laptop but the defence claimed she'd asked him to help make amendments. Zettl's fading memory meant her testimony was unreliable.

martyn sat at a dining room table with a window behind him looking out onto a garden
Conor MacNeill as Martyn Smith.

Smith delivered romantic letters to Moore-Martin on Field's behalf and was aware of his mirror-writing ruse, but Smith was ultimately found not guilty of aiding Farquhar's murder, plotting to kill Moore-Martin, fraud and burglary.

What details were left out of the drama?

Award-winning screenwriter Sarah Phelps did a magnificent job of telling the story with empathy, delicacy and devastating sadness.

However, there were details discovered by Phelps in her extensive research that she decided to omit, partly because the drama was made with the blessing of both victims' families.

"There are things that I've had access to which will never, ever see the light of day," she said. "If I'd put them in, people wouldn't be able to watch it. It would be too horrible. But they live in my head."

The families were "at the forefront" of her mind when writing, she added. "It's very difficult for them to revisit these events. I didn't want to cause them even more distress."

Ben and Peter sat next to one another on a bench under a tree in a churchyard drinking tea
Ben Field as Éanna Hardwicke and Peter Farquhar as Timothy Spall. Wild Mercury

Prosecution lawyers detailed Field's extreme gaslighting of Farquhar, some of which wasn't shown on-screen. This included secretly hiding his belongings and deleting contacts from his phone to isolate him and make him fear for his sanity.

Field took explicit photographs of Moore-Martin without her knowledge in case he needed them to blackmail her, and filmed humiliating footage of Farquhar in a drug-addled state.

Phelps and director Saul Dibb got the balance spot-on in the show. The case was harrowing but viewers were spared gratuitous detail without the drama losing impact, and the victims were treated with dignity, with the series celebrating their lives, while offering compassionate insights into loneliness and desperation for love.

It was fitting that the series ended not on the cowardly Field but by paying poignant tribute to Farquhar and Moore-Martin.

Why was Anne-Marie Blake so important to the case?

Schoolteacher Anne-Marie Blake (played in the series by the superb Annabel Scholey) proved herself to be instrumental in putting a stop to Field's scheming.

He wasn't suspected of murder until Moore-Martin died of natural causes 18 months later, after which her devoted niece began joining the dots.

Like Farquhar, her beloved "Auntie Ann" had been duped into a relationship and convinced to change her will to make him the main beneficiary. Moore-Martin also alleged that Field had drugged her, causing her health to rapidly decline, although there was no evidence to prove that.

Blake alerting the police proved key to ­unmasking the monstrous Field. Seizing his notebooks, detectives discovered he'd drawn up a 100-strong hit list of people who might be "useful".

Field claimed his scribblings were merely thoughts, but detectives described him as a psychopath who would have posed an "ongoing danger to society".

"He's just getting started," said the drama's iteration of DCI Mark Glover (Sherlock's Jonathan Aris).

Anne-Marie Blake looking directly into the camera
Annabel Scholey as Anne-Marie Blake. Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle

Blake was almost broken by Field's unrepentant evil. She suffered PTSD, thought he had lurked outside her home, and needed a screen between them in court, with Scholey's character explaining: "I can't have him watching me."

When the 'real-life Midsomer murderer' denied drugging her aunt and was found not guilty (no traces of the mysterious "white powder" were found), Blake couldn't bear to be there for the verdict.

"Guilty people get away with it," said her husband Simon (Ben Bailey Smith) in the TV series. "It happens all the time."

Blake burned with injustice but managed to find peace. The Sixth Commandment's closing scene saw her apologise to the Farquhars for putting them through the pain of his death all over again, but Sue (Amanda Root) reassured her: "You stopped him."

The Sixth Commandment airs on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what else is on.

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