On 9 August 2019, the Oxford Crown Court found a deputy churchwarden and PCC member guilty of murdering an author after tricking him into changing his will. He was remanded in custody and will be sentenced at a date to be fixed. The Diocese of Oxford has issued the following statement from the Archdeacon of Buckingham regarding the Ben Field verdict.
The Ben Field verdict
The Ben Field verdict – A statement from the Archdeacon of Buckingham
Following a painstaking investigation by Thames Valley Police and a lengthy trial at Oxford Crown Court, Ben Field was on Friday found guilty of the murder of Peter Farquhar. You will be aware from the press coverage of the depth of Field’s cruelty to those who became his victims.
At the end of what has been a hugely difficult ordeal for all those affected, please keep in your prayers Peter’s family and friends, his former colleagues and pupils. Remember too, those who worship at Stowe Parish Church, where Peter worshipped, and the community in Maids Moreton where he lived. Field was also convicted of fraud against Ann Moore-Martin and of other crimes in the community – please keep all those affected in your prayers. Pray too for the people of Olney where Ben’s family live – pray for them, and for him.
At times like this, the caring ministry of our parish clergy and the healing depth of our Christian communities come into their own. There has been work going on in the background for over two years to address various safeguarding and pastoral aspects of the case.
We hope that all those affected are receiving the support they need. If, however, anyone reading this is particularly affected by the case and needs to speak to someone, please contact our Authorised Listeners via the Safeguarding Team on 01865 208290.
This has been an extraordinary and unusual case. No one who came into contact with Ben Field was not manipulated by him. He made a pretence of being a committed Christian and gained the confidence of the people of Stowe Parish Church and then, to quote his own words, “I’m gonna become a vicar … just because I can outmanoeuvre the Church.” His arrest put an end to this pretence.
Any incidence of harm to a church member causes us to reflect and we will need to learn what this case has to teach us about safeguarding. Sentencing will be followed by “lessons learned” reviews by various organisations including the Diocese. If you have any particular concerns to raise in connection with this or any other safeguarding situation, please contact our Safeguarding Team on the number above.
“Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord.”
The Ven. Guy Elsmore
12th August 2019
The case has raised important issues regarding safeguarding and clergy selection. The Times noted that Church officials had been warned of “serious concerns” about Field; after he had murdered parishioner Peter Farquhar, he continued targeting a second elderly victim, and was five days from possible selection for ordination when he was arrested. A summary of the investigation by the Thames Valley Police is available here and evidence from the court case can be downloaded here.