Former Buckingham student says poetic insults were just 'sport' at Maids Moreton trial

Peter Farquhar and Ben Field
Peter Farquhar and Ben Field

On day 23 of the Maids Moreton murder trial at Oxford Crown Court, defendant Ben Field once again entered the witness box.

David Jeremy QC spent much of the day focusing on Mr Field's and Peter Farquhar's love of literature, in particular poetry, and how they often communicated with each other via this medium.

It was explained to the court that these poems were often “extremely insulting”, as Ben Field put it, but that they were seen as “fun – a bit of sport”, Ben Field said.

In one collection, titled 'Truers Jest' written by Ben Field and presented to Peter Farquhar as a Christmas present in 2012, Mr Field included the following lines:

“Field is the soil I'll put you under.”

“This f** thinks he's the best but he's lying to himself.”

“Little Pete, you wanted a literary executor, I'm your literary executioner.”

Mr Jeremy asked why he wrote such negative things. Mr Field replied:

“I'm not a writer of nice things. I didn't enjoy positive types of writing – they weren't interesting to me.”

Mr Farquhar's response to 'Truers Jest' was an 18-line poem simply titled 'Ben'. It included the following lines:

“A nonentity whom nobody reads.”

“Deceptive and disloyal as a friend.”

“Ben uses people for unworthy ends.”

“Hurting others is his special pleasure.”

When asked by Mr Jeremy if Peter Farquhar had “got him right” in his poem 'Ben', Ben Field said:

“It's written within the bounds of combative texts but the essence of it is true.”

Mr Jeremy then asked Mr Field to explain to the jury the long running literary debate he had with Mr Farquhar over what was to be most valued in literature – was it the message of a text, the moral substance, its meaning, or was it simply the quality of the language and the word play.

Mr Field explained that he was very much in the latter camp of this debate, while Peter Farquhar was in the former. David Jeremy suggested that Mr Field's preferences could be summarised as “style over substance” to which Ben Field agreed.

While reading Mr Field's various poems, journal inputs and internet searches, Mr Jeremy highlighted the many mentions of suicide. Mr Field described how he had been depressed in 2013 having finished his master's degree but was not moving forward in his career. He said of his apparent fascination with suicide:

“Knowing where the door is prevents one from frantically searching for it.”

The questioning moved briefly to Liz Zetl, who's will Mr Field is accused of being in possession of for use in fraud.

Mr Field told the jury that he thought it was only the front page of the will that had been found on his computer server at the University of Buckingham and that it probably got there because Martyn Smith was helping Ms Zetl with her will and he had allowed him to use his printing credits.

Martyn Smith, who was a lodger at Ms Zetl's house in Buckingham and a friend of Mr Field , is also charged with being in possession of Ms Zetl will for use in fraud.

During her testimony earlier in the trial, Ms Zetl had spoken about problems that she was having with her own printer but when asked if there was any reason why her will might be on Mr Field's computer, she replied:

“no.”

Mr Jeremy then questioned his client about his betrothal to Peter Farquhar.

For the proposal, Mr Field explained that he bought cigars and dessert wine.

“I planned for it to be an event,” Mr Field said.

“A fake event,” Mr Jeremy replied.

“Yes,” Mr Field confirmed.

Mr Jeremy asked Mr Field what it was like living through a fake proposal. Mr Field responded:

“Pleasing knowing more than anyone else,” adding, “feeling in charge – that you've got something on everyone else.”

When Mr Jeremy asked about why he found it pleasing when he couldn't share it with anyone, Mr Field responded:

“Most of my pleasures have been privately held. It's a habit of a lifetime to be living inside my head.”

The defence returned to Ben Field's poetry, specifically one that he wrote after Mr Farquhar died, which began with the line “So, I have seen a man killed!”

The prosecution had highlighted this line to the jury earlier in the trial but the defence contradicted its relevance to the case, pointing out that the line was lifted from a poem called 'Amours de Voyage' by Arthur Hugh Clough.

Closing the day, Mr Jeremy asked if Mr Field was telling the truth. Mr Field said:

“These are true words, sincerely spoken.”

Mr Jeremy replied, “how do we know?”

Ben Field said:

“It's almost impossible having been so devious. All I can do is say what's true. That's as far as I can go in proving it.”

Ben Field, 28, and Martyn Smith, 32, are charged with one count of murder, one charge of conspiracy to murder, three counts of fraud, one count of possession of an article for the use in fraud, and one count of burglary.

Additionally, Ben Field is charged with one count of attempted murder.

Tom Field, 24, is charged with fraud.

The trial continues.