The Sixth Commandment true story: Disturbing real-life case behind BBC drama
The series stars Timothy Spall and Anne Reid.
New BBC drama The Sixth Commandment recounts the heinous crimes of former churchwarden Ben Field in the sleepy village of Maids Moreton in Buckinghamshire.
Penned by Dublin Murders writer Sarah Phelps, who is also known for her work on a number of recent Agatha Christie adaptations, The Sixth Commandment recounts Field's murder of author and retired teacher Peter Farquhar (Timothy Spall) in 2015 as well as his later attempts to defraud Farquhar's elderly neighbour, Ann Moore-Martin (Anne Reid).
Field was found guilty of murdering Farquhar in 2019 but cleared of conspiring to kill Moore-Martin and of her attempted murder.
The Sith Commandment true story
Farquhar and Moore-Martin were neighbours in the village of Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire, living just three doors down from one another.
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They had both worked in education – Farquhar taught at Manchester Grammar School and Stowe School before taking up a guest lecturer role at Buckingham University following his retirement.
Moore-Martin had been a headmistress at St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Bicester, Oxfordshire.
They were also both religious – Farquhar was an evangelical Christian and Moore-Martin a Catholic.
But there was another link between the pair: Ben Field, a PhD student and Baptist minister's son who preyed upon their vulnerabilities for financial gain.
Field, a churchwarden who was considering becoming a vicar, subjected Farquhar and Moore-Martin to substantial psychological abuse while pretending he was in love with them.
Field also murdered Farquhar.
Farquhar and Field first met at the University of Buckingham before entering into what the academic believed was a loving relationship. Farquhar, who was gay, had long struggled to reconcile his faith with his sexuality and, as a result, was longing for companionship, which Field seized upon.
The pair promised themselves to one another in a "betrothal ceremony", which Farquhar described as "one of the happiest moments" of his life in a diary entry (via The Guardian), adding: "Gone are the fears of dying alone."
After Field moved into Farquhar's home, he began poisoning him with a potent mix of alcohol and drugs, which he'd disguise in food and cups of tea. Without a medical diagnosis to explain the hallucinations and night terrors, Farquhar believed he was losing his mind. He also suffered physical injuries from falling over during states of confusion.
Once Field had convinced Farquhar to change his will and make him the main beneficiary, the next stage of his wicked plot could commence: Farquhar's death.
Prosecutors later argued that Field had hoped that his extensive gaslighting campaign, which involved hiding Farquhar's possessions and deleting his phone contacts, all of which Field recorded in journals, poems and videos of Farquhar in his drug-addled states, would encourage him to take his own life.
But when that failed, Field took it upon himself to kill the 69-year-old. He made it look like Farquhar had drunk himself to death by leaving a half-empty bottle of whisky in his room, which chimed with the belief from some of those closest to him that he had developed an alcohol problem.
Farquhar was found dead on his sofa by a cleaner in 2015. He had been suffocated by Field.
Farquhar had previously dedicated his third book, A Wide Wide Sea, to him, and Field also delivered the eulogy at his funeral.
While Farquhar was still alive, Field had lined up Moore-Martin as his next victim. She had family and friends but had never been married and, like Farquhar, was considered lonely.
Field began writing to her and managed to convince Moore-Martin that he had fallen in love with her.
"I have not said, as perhaps I should, that I desire you, and desire to woo you; that my earnest hope is that you would see me as I see you: I see you as a beautiful, fun, lovely, insightful woman of faith and grace," he wrote in one letter (via The Guardian).
During the trial, Moore-Martin's niece, Anne-Marie Blake, who described her as being "more like a mum and... like a grandmother to my children", said (via The Bucks Herald) that her aunt was concerned following Farquhar's death: "It's like death is creeping along our houses one by one and if you look at it my house is next."
Blake said that Moore-Martin was "very much under his spell" and the family were concerned about "the amount of time she was spending with someone who was a stranger" to them.
As with Farquhar, Field moved into her home, where he also subjected Moore-Martin to sustained gaslighting, which included writing messages on her mirrors addressed from God encouraging her to "pray for Ben" and give him money.
Moore-Martin was taken to hospital in February 2017 following a seizure, which is when the police were informed about Field's behaviour by Blake after a concerning exchange with Field.
He arrived at Moore-Martin's home to collect some belongings and she asked him several questions, including (via The Bucks Herald): "Have you been taking things from my aunt's house? Have you been accepting money from my aunt? Have you been trying to change my aunt's will?"
Blake told the court that he had answered "yes" to all three questions.
Moore-Martin had changed her will to include Field but, after learning of his scheme, she removed his name.
In May 2017, 83-year-old Moore-Martin died in a care home of natural causes.
Field admitted to poisoning Farquhar and "psychologically manipulating" both of them, but he denied any involvement in their deaths. In 2019, the 28-year-old was found guilty of Farquhar's murder and sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum sentence of 36 years.
Field was cleared of conspiring to kill Moore-Martin and of her attempted murder.
He had previously said that he thought he would "get away with most of it" (via The Guardian).
Field's former girlfriend, Laura Busby, who he had dated on and off for five years, was a key witness in the trial. Like so many people who had come into contact with Field, she was shocked by the revelations about the "lovely, caring person" she had believed he was.
Speaking to Stylist, she said: "When he was sentenced for murder, he had no emotion on his face. He didn't cry, he didn't smile, he didn’t frown. He just looked up at the judge with a really straight face, and not once did he look at anyone in the gallery. It's like he wasn’t capable of showing true emotion".
Farquhar's brother Ian described Field as a "deeply malevolent and thoroughly evil man" (via BBC News).
Thames Valley Police detective Mark Glover said: "The extent of his planning, deception and cruelty towards his victims is frankly staggering, and I do not believe he has ever shown an ounce of remorse or contrition.
"If he is sorry for anything, it is that he got caught."
Field also had a list of 100 "clients" who, like Farquhar and Moore-Martin, he considered "useful" to him. His own parents and grandparents were on that list.
Did Ben Field have an accomplice?
Field's friend Martyn Smith, a 32-year-old magician, was also accused of working with him to murder Farquhar and conspiring to murder Moore-Martin, but he was found not guilty.
Field's 24-year-old brother Tom was also cleared of one count of fraud relating to a ploy in which Field swindled £27,000 out of Moore-Martin, apparently to purchase a dialysis machine for his sibling, who he claimed was seriously ill.
How did Ben Field get caught?
As detailed above, it was while targeting Moore-Martin, who he also tricked into a relationship, that Field was caught.
Moore-Martin’s niece became suspicious of Field and eventually alerted the police, a move which eventually led to Field being caught for Farquhar’s murder.