Murder suspects 'flattered victim' with documentary film plans

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Two men suspected of the murder of an elderly teacher and his neighbour "flattered" him by planning a documentary film about him in the final months of his life.

As the health of Peter Farquhar deteriorated, church warden Ben Field and magician Martyn Smith persuaded the 69-year-old academic to publish his previously unseen work.

As well as setting up a company with Mr Farquhar, the pair contacted many of his friends, former colleagues and pupils to appear in a documentary on his life and career.

The film was being organised through the company called Farquhar Studies, which had Mr Smith and Mr Field as directors.

The company described itself as "The Authorised Resource for the Critical and Literary Work of Peter Farquhar".

The programme, intended to be shown on television, was given the working title The Moral Of The Story: The Literature Of Peter Farquhar.

Smith wrote to one former pupil in July 2015, in an email seen by the Press Association, saying: "I am Martyn Smith, director of Farquhar Studies.

"We are currently developing a documentary film about the life and work of Peter Farquhar, and would be deeply grateful for any help that you can offer, most especially if you would be willing to be interviewed on camera.

Mr Farquhar also wrote to friends asking them to take part.

He wrote: "I understand that two of my former students at Buckingham University, Ben Field and Martyn Smith, have already written to you, flattering me immensely by planning to run a short documentary of me on television about my novel writing and as a teacher."

Mr Farquhar released his third novel, A Wide Wide Sea, through Farquhar Studies, in August 2015.

A local newspaper article reported that Field and Smith "discovered the handwritten manuscripts and persuaded Mr Farquhar to publish them".

The dedication in the book reads: "This book is dedicated to MARTYN SMITH and BEN FIELD whose encouragement was invaluable and without whom this book would not exist."

The University of Buckingham has confirmed that Field and Smith, both students at the institution where Mr Farquhar worked as a guest lecturer, had been suspended following the police probe.

(Michael Crick/Twitter)
(Michael Crick/Twitter)

The pair are understood to have looked after Mr Farquhar as his health deteriorated in his last months and sent emails to friends updating them on his condition.

It has also emerged that Field, who was Mr Farquhar's lodger, bought him a dog called Kipling which the pensioner is understood to have "doted on".

Mr Farquhar used to be a lay preacher at Stowe Parish Church where Field is listed as a deputy warden.

The teacher previously worked at Manchester Grammar School and Stowe School in Buckinghamshire.

Field, 27, and Smith, 31, are being held in custody with a third man in connection with the death of Mr Farquhar in October 2015.

They are also being questioned over the death of retired teacher Ann Moore-Martin, 83, who lived three doors away from Mr Farquhar in the village of Maids Moreton, near Buckingham, and who died in May last year.

A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: "The causes of death are yet to be determined."

Police have been searching four properties in three locations around the country as part of the inquiry.

A 27-year-old man from Towcester and a 31-year-old from Redruth have each been detained on suspicion of two counts of murder, two counts of conspiracy to murder, two counts of suspicion of fraud by false representation, one count of conspiracy to defraud and one count of burglary.

The younger man has also been arrested on suspicion of a second count of burglary.

A 22-year-old man from Milton Keynes has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, conspiring to commit fraud by false representation and fraud by false representation.