The Oldest Trick in the Book

The coffin gingerly rose from its sacred resting place. Its lid had collapsed during exhumation from the weight of the soil; as if it was so excited by the secret it contained, it could no longer hold its silence. The contents of the coffin were the remains of novelist Peter Farquhar and he was about to tell the Thames Valley Police, a story of love, truth and the poisonous pursuit of power.

      Black fingernails were removed with clinical tweezers and medical knifes cut away samples from his skull’s crackling grey hair. The Pathologists tried to contain their delight and bafflement; they could still smell the whiskey from Peter’s last fateful drink. The rotting evidence was whisked off to the Toxicology Laboratory and the experts finally concluded: 

      ‘Peter had not drunk anywhere near enough to kill him.'

      Senior Investigating Officer, Mark Glover, supervised through the glass windows of the Hospital Mortuary. A sombre man, who joined the Police at age twenty, he was fast approaching his fiftieth retirement year. You would be forgiven for thinking this was the opening to a Film Noir and indeed, this was Mark’s clichéd, last, unsolved case. He approached the mystery with the same dry, withered, numbness of a seasoned comic-book detective. But, unlike his fictional counterparts, he was hunting the very real, non-fictional, psychopath, Benjamin Field.

Many of Peter Farquhar’s former students would have made the mistake of judging his slight physique, for being a pushover. They learned quickly, that this sparrow-like English teacher, was formidable in spirit and mind. Gentle and be-speckled, Peter had always wanted to be a teacher. Temporarily postponing his own writing career, to hone the young minds of the Manchester Grammar School pupils. For his own pleasure and prosperity, he began to journal the events of his life:

       ‘Here I am, with a passion for words, a senior teacher of English Literature, having lacked the discipline to record the first forty-four years of my life. Now, I resolve to write a few lines, when possible, each night.’

By the time Peter met twenty-year old, undergraduate Ben Field, he was forty-five years his senior and teaching the Romantic poets at Buckingham University. It was not un-common for Peter to form long lasting friendships with the students.

      Peter wrote: ‘I have so much to thank God for, but despite my many friends and involvements, there is a black hole where strong emotional relationships should be’.

      As the elderly gent began to spend extensive personal time with the dashing young Ben, Peter’s family welcomed the blossoming romance. Ben had finally come to harmonious terms, with his homosexuality and his strong Christian faith; an acceptance that had escaped him for decades. However, escape from Ben’s toxic grip, would not be on the horizon for Peter:

      ‘I love him entirely and dearly… he’s so sympathetic, warm and appreciative, I’ve given him a key to the house.’

      The strapping, broad-shouldered Ben, had a quick mind and eloquence of speech that enchanted all who came across his path. Weaponizing this intelligence, Ben had the ability to read people, see what they wanted and convince them he could fulfil their desires. Visiting the older scholar at his home, he would recite Shakespeare, verbatim. Providing Peter with the love and companionship which he had craved all those years. Making an alibi out of Peter’s Anglican faith, Ben integrated himself into the Maid Moreton church community. He declared that he would train to be a Priest and found work at a care home. In spite of Bens Cambridge University accomplishments, he forged a more lucrative business model out of the old, infirm and vulnerable.

Eighteen month later, forging a provable Crown Court conviction, was on the mind of Mark Glover. Slowly wading through Peter’s transcribed journals: 

      ‘Peter is talking to us from the grave… narrating his own murder’, Mark declared.

Mark Stared intently at the computer screens, relaying events of the late night raid on Ben’s flat; three stern fists boomed on Ben’s front door: 


A fuzzy radio reported back to the stoic Mark: 

      'Male is not present,' and with a momentary, apprehensive breath, 

      ‘Disappeared?’ Mark’s composure slipped for the slightest second. However, the boots on the ground captured their suspect escaping through his bedroom window. The Police now had control.

      Ben’s sharp mind whirled behind a veneer of calmness. He was composed, respectful and politely distanced himself from the stereotypical behaviour of the criminals who usually frequented the station.

      ‘Are you working at the moment?' The Booking Sergeant tapped away as his keyboard.

      ‘I’m in the process of completing a book about 18th century poetry’, replied Ben.

The Booking Sergeant, already numb to the nightly parade of life’s desperation, glumly responded:

      ‘So that’s author then is it?’

Ben steadied himself on the desk, with outstretched arms, his body language betraying his pretentious act of composure.

What was unravelling, however, was the architecture of his lies. Like Peter, Ben had also been a prolific man of words and his murder plot was meticulously recorded in his own notebooks and bizarre rap poetry recordings, discovered at his flat:

‘Benjamin’s my right hand

By which I will allow you to suffer

And Field is the Soil of the ground I’ll put you under

‘Coz I’m killing this man… Fantasize, fantasize, about it

And now it’s time for a crimson tide

And I’m the King

And I will reside on the throne

And you know I can kill this guy’

Breaking open capsules of Peter’s regular prescribed medication, Ben replaced their hidden powdered contents, with Psychoactive Drugs. Inducing terrors and hallucinations; lights flashed before Peter’s eyes. Swarms of insects flew at him. His vivid imagination, turned against his trusting nature. Sedatives: Benzodiazepine pills, that were stolen from Ben’s care home job and were secretly administered by him:

      ‘Breakfast in bed, 2.5mg diclaz [Dichlozoline] in toast’ Ben recalled in his murder notes. 

Simultaneously, Peter journaled:

      ‘Ben made up for yesterday, by bringing me breakfast in bed’.

Peter’s possessions would be lost, only for Ben to miraculously find them. Hospital tests resolved that there was nothing medically wrong with Peter, but Ben convinced him he was losing his mind to Dementia - whilst outwardly prepping the world, with the false cover story, that Peter was an Alcoholic.

      Meanwhile, two houses along the street, eighty-three year old Anne Moore Marie, was experiencing a spiritual awakening! Mysterious messages of scripture were appearing on her bathroom mirror… advising her to change her last will and testament, leaving everything to Ben Field. It’s no coincidence that Ben had also befriended, the slight and lonesome religious woman, in a similar fashion to Peter, telling her he had also received messages of a similar nature from God. Ben also started similar companionships with many others, at one time running five romance confidence scams simultaneously.

Peters decomposing body was found in a brown living room. Brown is perpetually associated with the front rooms of old people; brown furniture, on brown carpet. Peter lay slumped over the side of a brown couch, leaning towards the half-empty, brown Aberdour whiskey bottle, balanced on the brown table next to him.

A note from Ben read: 

      ‘HAVE A DRAM!’.

      Mark Glover surmised, that the drugs and alcohol subdued Peter and that he was then smothered with a cushion. His life, like the inky note that lay next to the bottle, smudged out.

A confident head nod acknowledged every Police Officer Ben interacted with:

      ‘Which cell shall we go to?’ Ben enquired. His gripped jaw, softened by the outline of a Mona Lisa smirk. Sparkling, almond chocolate eyes, bathed in the attention of being charged with Peter’s murder.

     In court, he cheerfully recounted enjoying the manipulation and suffering of Peter; as if it were a recreational pastime. Admitting to Fraud and Robbery, but denying Murder, after twenty-four days of deliberation; Judge and Jury found him guilty of all counts against the trusting man who believed him to be his saviour and protector. Outside the high court, Peter’s brother, Ian Farquhar, lamented:

      ‘It is four years, less a week, since my brother Peter was murdered. His murderer, Ben Field is a deeply malevolent and thoroughly evil man, who callously seduced his way into my brother life’.

      ‘2015 End Peter’ was the final line in Ben’s murder notes. Such a concise phrase, written for a man, who embodied a great passion for prose. Peter Farquhar did not find the great love of his life in Benjamin Field, but he was loved dearly, for decades, by the many students whom he captivated in his classroom.

All Work Copyright © Sarah Armstrong as ‘Dita Kelly’ 2021


 Mohdin, A. (2019) Church warden jailed for life for murder of university lecturer  in The Guardian, [online] available at

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