Timothy Spall reveals how he prepared to play murdered Peter Farquhar

Actor Timothy Spall says gay academic murdered by a churchwarden had a ‘loneliness’ and a ‘desire for affection’ as he reveals how he prepared to portray him in new BBC drama The Sixth Commandment

  • Peter Farquhar, 69, was murdered by Benjamin Field in 2015 
  • Field also targeted 83-year-old former teacher Anne Moore-Martin 
  • New drama The Sixth Commandment re-tells the story of horrifying crimes 

He was the much-loved retired English teacher who was murdered by a twisted younger man. 

Peter Farquhar suffered a campaign of gaslighting and physical and mental torture at the hands of 32-year-old church warden Benjamin Field before being murdered in 2016. 

Now actor Timothy Spall, who is portraying him in a new drama starting tonight, has told how Farquhar was outwardly ‘vivacious’ but suffered from ‘loneliness’ and a ‘desire for affection’.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, he explained he prepared for the role by watching news footage of the academic and reading his diary.

Timothy Spall, who is portraying murdered retired teacher Peter Farquhar (right) in new drama the Sixth Commandment, has told how the victim was outwardly ‘vivacious’ but suffered from ‘loneliness’ and a ‘desire for affection’

Spall is starring in the drama, The Sixth Commandment, alongside Anne Reid, 88, who is portraying Field’s female victim, Anne Moore-Martin. 

She was also entrapped and exploited by the killer but was found to have died from natural causes after a trial.

Mr Farquhar, who had struggled with his sexuality for years, had taught English at the private Manchester Grammar School before moving to the prestigious Stowe in 1983.

He was head of English there for 21 years, before deciding to retire in 2004 so he could write novels.

Spall, 66, said: ‘I watched him and I always imagined that there was this social life, happy social life and his private life but also a drone, I explained it sort of like a drone on a sitar. 

‘It is constantly going, which are his social life, but the drone underneath it is always his loneliness and his desire for affection.’

Having read the teacher’s diaries, he added that he also had to use his imagination to try to ‘inhabit’ his persona.

‘What you can’t glean from information you use your imagination and try and connect your own humanity with somebody else’s,’ he said. 

‘It is what you try to do really when you try to inhabit somebody rather than impersonate them.’

Mr Farquhar suffered a campaign of gaslighting and physical and mental torture at the hands of 32-year-old Field (left), who is serving a minimum 36-year prison sentence for his murder. Field is portrayed by 26-year-old Irish star Éanna Hardwicke (right)

Undated handout photo issued by Thames Valley Police of Peter Farqhuar (right) and Benjamin Field

Retired English teacher Peter Farquhar (left) was murdered by Benjamin Field in 2019 in a case that shocked the nation. New BBC drama the Sixth Commandment sees Timothy Spall (right, in character) portray him

The Mr Turner star also spoke of the ‘massive responsibility’ of portraying another person, in large part because, in the case of Mr Farquhar, people ‘loved him and knew him’.   

‘You’ve got to try and do something that is not just, I suppose, trying to reproduce somebody’s idiosyncrasies but touch what makes them like they are and go deeper,’ he said. 

‘You never know whether you are going to achieve it so it is a delight and lovely and satisfying that you’ve managed to do that. 

‘You’re only using yourself as the petrol to put in somebody else’s engine so its great that they feel it fired it up.’ 

Field is portrayed in the Sixth Commandment by 26-year-old Irish star Éanna Hardwicke, whilst Sheila Hancock, 90, depicts retired secretary Liz Zettl, who was Field’s third intended target before he was caught. 

The Sixth Commandment is directed by Saul Dibb and produced by Frances du Pille. A release date has not yet been announced.

Field was a 20-year-old undergraduate student when he first met Mr Farquhar.

On discovering that both he and his neighbour were wealthy, Field decided to seduce them to get his hands on their money.

Pretending to be in love first with Mr Farquhar and then Miss Moore-Martin, he was sexually intimate with both, despite dismissing his male partner as a ‘faggot’ and having feelings of ‘indifference’ towards his female victim.

Once he had gained their trust, Field carried out sinister mind games and plied the pair with alcohol and drugs.

Mr Farquhar’s health deteriorated to the point where he was at times rambling, incoherent and suffering from hallucinations.

In the mornings he would often find himself covered in bruises and his prized possessions missing, with no memory of what had happened.

‘I am finding more joy in life now than ever before in my swift 23 years,’ Field wrote as he began his campaign of abuse.

After his arrest, police uncovered a list of potential future victims which included his own parents and grandparents.

He also fantasised in notebooks about a nighttime murder rampage, predicting he could kill up to 50 people in a single spree.

When Mr Farquhar was found dead by his cleaner in October 2015, the first person she called after the emergency services was Field, who everyone believed was his loyal partner.

In March the previous year, the pair had pledged themselves to one another in a London church service.

The day was particularly special for Mr Farquhar, who wrote in his journal: ‘It is one of the happiest moments of my life. Gone are the fears of dying alone.’

Describing his initial encounter with Mr Farquhar, who was a guest lecturer at his university, Field boasted of the pair’s ‘vulgarly commercial’ relationship.

‘He gives me things, and he gets me for a length of time,’ he wrote.

He explained the relationship in even cruder terms to a friend, writing:

‘He and I have struck a deal which is I pay for nothing and will hang out with him until his eventual death win/win… I’m p [pretty] comfortable w/death.’

Anne Moore-Martin, 83, was Field’s second victim. She too was seduced by the criminal. She is portrayed in the upcoming drama by Anne Reid, 88

On mirrors in her home, he would scrawl messages in white marker. One read: ‘Pray for Ben, Ben loves you’

Field was cleared of conspiracy to murder Ann-Moore Martin (pictured)

Field and a university friend moved into Mr Farquhar’s home as lodgers in 2013.

At the time, he was working in the bakery section at Tesco and as a carer at a nearby nursing home.

There he filmed himself tormenting a resident, telling her she didn’t ‘have any friends and you have never married’.

In 2014, the same month as his and Mr Farquhar’s church ceremony, Field began a relationship with another woman, Setara Pracha, an admissions tutor at Buckingham Universtiy, where he had been a student.

He went on to become a deputy church warden at St Mary’s Church in Stowe and boasted to a friend how he was going to become a vicar.

The abuse he subjected Mr Farquhar to included torturing a pet chihuahua he had given him and making him believe he had dementia.

After his will had been changed in Field’s favour, Mr Farquhar was murdered. He was found to have consumed prescription sedatives and alcohol, and police believe he may also have been suffocated with a pillow.

Field initially avoided suspicion and pocketed £20,000 from his victim’s will. When Mr Farquhar’s house was sold by his brother, Field got a further £142,000.

He then moved on to his second victim, Ms Moore-Martin, who he had been introduced to by Mr Farquhar.

The retired teacher and devout Catholic quickly fell under his spell, giving him a key to her house and telling friends she loved him.

Above her dressing table she even hung a framed photograph of him bearing the words: ‘I am always with you’.

In 2016, she gave him £4,000 to buy a car. Having no intention of actually purchasing a vehicle with the money, Field hired a car for a day to dupe her.

He then conned the woman out of £27,000 telling her ne needed the money to help his brother, who he claimed was desperately ill.

On mirrors in her home, he would scrawl messages in white marker. One read: ‘Ben makes you whole, Give the whole to him.’

Another stated: ‘All that you give him will be returned tenfold.’

Convinced by his act, Ms Moore-Martin changed her will in Field’s favour at the end of 2016.

In February 2017 she suffered a seizure and ended up in hospital.

It remains unclear what caused the decline, but she did tell friends days earlier that Field had given her ‘some powder’ which helped her sleep.

Field was however cleared of attempting to kill her.

Once his victim was in hospital, Field was unable to get access to her and the pensioner’s niece, Anne-Marie Blake, became suspicious.

As police began an investigation, Ms Blake changed her aunt’s will to write Field out.

Retired secretary Liz Zettl, who was Field’s third intended target before he was caught, is portrayed by Sheila Hancock, 90. Above left: Ms Zettl arriving to give evidence at Field’s trial in 2019

In March 2017, Field was arrested for the first time, but two months later, Ms Moore-Martin died for a massive stroke.

Her niece said in evidence to the jury at Field’s trial: ‘She was tortured by it and found it very difficult to get her head around the betrayal.

‘She said to me, “I am such an intelligent woman. How could I let this happen to myself?”

At his trial, former Stowe School secretary, Ms Zettl, then 101, became the oldest witness in a British murder case.

Field’s co-accused, Martyn Smith, who was cleared of involvement in the deaths of both Mr Farquhar and Ms Moore-Martin, had lived as a lodger with Ms Zettl.

In January 2022, Field began a second bid to have his conviction overturned. The Court of Appeal dismissed a previous challenge in 2021.

Source: Read Full Article