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Magician and church warden spiked drinks of victim, murder trial is told

An aerial view of the former homes of Peter Farquhar (left) and Ann Moore-Martin (right) in Manor Park, Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire
An aerial view of the former homes of Peter Farquhar (left) and Ann Moore-Martin (right) in Manor Park, Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire
Peter Farquhar
Ann Moore-Martin

By Rod Minchin

A church warden and a magician spiked a university lecturer's food and drink with neat alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs as part of a sustained campaign of "gaslighting", a court has heard.

Prosecutors allege Peter Farquhar (69) was given glasses of "super-charged" whisky and food laced with drugs during a plot to murder him.

Baptist minister's son Benjamin Field (28) and Martyn Smith (32) are accused of murdering the ex-teacher and planning to kill his elderly neighbour Ann Moore-Martin (83).

Mr Farquhar died in October 2015, while Miss Moore-Martin, a retired teacher, died in May 2017.

Cambridge University graduate Tom Field (24), Benjamin Field's younger brother, is also on trial accused of fraud.

Benjamin Field and Smith "psychologically manipulated" the deeply religious pair, who lived three doors from each other in Maids Moreton in Buckinghamshire, making them believe they were losing their minds, Oxford Crown Court heard.

As part of the deception, prosecutors allege Benjamin Field underwent a "betrothal" ceremony with gay Mr Farquhar while having a string of girlfriends.

Later, as part of the alleged plot to target Miss Moore-Martin, he had a sexual relationship with the spinster, who was 57 years his senior, the court heard.

Benjamin Field and Smith allegedly embarked on a campaign of 'mirror writing' - leaving messages for Miss Moore-Martin in her home that she believed were from God.

The court heard Mr Farquhar, who taught part-time at the University of Buckingham, suffered night terrors and hallucinations and would sleepwalk and fall over, hitting his head.

Friends noticed the bachelor appeared drunk and would slur his speech and he told them he thought he was losing his mind, Oliver Saxby QC, prosecuting, told the court.

"It seems likely that what he was drinking was being topped up with near neat alcohol," Mr Saxby said.

"The obvious way round someone saying they only wanted a small glass, only wanted one more? Supplement it with neat alcohol, provide them with a glass of whisky - something with a strong taste apt to mask the taste of drug - and pop some neat alcohol in to give it a supercharged strength."

Mr Saxby said Mr Farquhar's drinks were topped up with bioethanol and poteen and his food laced with drugs.

"Peter Farquhar underwent various humiliations, culminating in a doctor advising that all alcohol should be removed from his house and that he should abstain from drinking," he said.

Mr Farquhar was a social drinker but did not have a history of heavy drinking, the court heard. During the time he was allegedly being drugged, he had liver and blood tests that showed him to be a moderate drinker.

"Peter Farquhar was not an alcoholic, nor was he suffering from dementia - this too has been ruled out. Nor did he have any other form of disease of the mind," Mr Saxby said.

"His symptoms were the product of drugs which, unbeknownst to him, he was being fed in his food, in his drink and so on, combined with the relatively modest quantities of alcohol he was drinking and being encouraged to drink."

The jury was told Mr Farquhar recorded in his handwritten journal the experience of suffering hallucinations, including becoming "paralysed" at the sight of bright lights appearing in front of him while driving.

Jurors also watched a video clip filmed by Benjamin Field of him talking to Mr Farquhar while sat up in bed hallucinating.

Mr Saxby alleged that after Mr Farquhar changed his will three times in two years to benefit Benjamin Field and Smith, he had to die.

He said: "Peter Farquhar needed to die, at some point was going to have to die. And when he did, everyone was going to think it was down to Peter Farquhar's terrible ill-health, his alcoholism - perhaps even suicide.

"Peter was also questioning his faith, something that defined him. He was worried that God no longer cared for him."

Benjamin Field and Smith deny charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and possession of an article for use in fraud.

Field, of Olney, Buckinghamshire, also denies an alternative charge of attempted murder, but he has admitted four charges of fraud and two of burglary.

Smith, of Redruth, Cornwall, also denies two charges of fraud and one of burglary. Tom Field, also of Olney, Buckinghamshire, denies a charge of fraud.

The trial continues today.

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