In 2015, churchwarden Ben Field murdered his partner, Peter Farquhar, by poisoning and suffocating him. No one suspected a thing – least of all Field’s girlfriend, Lara Busby. Here, she tells Stylist about their relationship, and the moment she found out he was a murderer.
Ben Field was sentenced to life in prison in October 2019 for the murder of Peter Farquhar. Field, 28, had duped Farquhar, 69, into believing he was in love with him in order to convince him to change his will. The pair lived together in Buckingham and had undergone a betrothal ceremony to show their love, with university lecturer Farquhar dedicating his third book to Field, and Field giving the eulogy at his funeral.
During the trial, it emerged that Field had launched a gaslighting campaign against Farquhar to make him question his sanity, while lacing his food with drugs and putting high-strength alcohol in his drinks. On the night he died in 2015, Field had suffocated him, leaving a bottle of whisky in his room to make it look like a suicide or an accidental death.
No one suspected Field of murder until two years later, when he was arrested and accused of plotting to kill Farquhar’s neighour, 83-year-old Ann Moore-Martin. The police started investigating Field, and he was arrested for Farquhar’s murder a few months later.
Field admitted in court that he had launched a year-long campaign to convince Moore-Martin to fall in love with him and change her will to leave everything to him – which she had done, before changing her mind. He was also accused of plotting to kill her, but found not guilty in court.
During the trial, police also found a list of 100 ‘targets’ that Field had created, seemingly to launch similar gaslighting campaigns in order to gain money. While all this was going on, Field had maintained a five-year long relationship with Lara Busby, who had no idea that he was in a relationship with Farquhar or pursuing Moore-Martin. She certainly didn’t know that he was a murderer.
Here, she tells her story.
I met Ben through a mutual friend in December 2012. At the time I was 19 and he was two years older. At first we were just friends but then he asked me out on a date – I’d never been on one before, so he was the first person who had ever properly asked me out.
I was quite nervous at first but it felt completely natural. We went to a local pub in Buckingham for a drink and a chat and things developed naturally from there – it wasn’t long before we became an official couple about a month later. We were together on and off for the next five years.
We had a nice, normal relationship – we went for walks with my dogs, and loved chilling together and watching a film. As a boyfriend he was really caring and attentive. We didn’t get to see each other as much as we would have liked as we were both at university and working, but he was always there for me. When my late best friend passed away he even came to the funeral with me. I couldn’t have asked for more.
We sadly broke up in March 2013, when Ben sent me a text ending our relationship. We didn’t speak for a few months, but then he messaged me late at night and said he wanted to see me to apologise. At the time, I wasn’t ready to get back together, but we were a couple again by October 2013. Our relationship from mid-2014 to 2017 was more casual, but it had started to develop into something more serious by the summer of 2017 when he told me that he was in love with me.
Then, in March 2017, he was arrested in relation to Ann Moore-Martin. Ben came to meet me after work and I knew something wasn’t right because he turned up in his old car, and he seemed a bit off. I asked him what was going on, and he told me that he’d been arrested on suspicion of poisoning someone. He said that the person had put him in their will, and a family member had made a false allegation against him because they were unhappy about it.
He promised me that he’d done nothing wrong and I had no reason not to believe him – as far as I was aware, he was the same lovely, caring person he’d always been.
Ben was arrested again in January 2018, and accused of murdering Peter Farquhar. At that point I was classed as a key witness which meant I couldn’t speak to him anymore. Our last conversation had been on the phone just before that happened, when we’d had a general catch up about how we both were.
At the time he was on police bail in regards to his first arrest, so I would often ask if there was any news, and whether he was going to be charged. He was his usual, cheery self, and he told me that they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him, because there was no evidence – he was adamant that he hadn’t done anything wrong. I was in love with him, and if he said he was innocent, then I was going to support him.
I didn’t know Ben had lied to me until the first day of the trial, which started in April 2019. He was charged for Peter’s murder and it started to sink in that he wouldn’t be charged unless there was evidence against him. But I always had that little glimmer of hope in me that he hadn’t done it, and at that point I was still a witness so there was only so much I was allowed to know.
Then on the first day of the trial it all started to come out in the press. My brother sent me a link to a news article about him. I was just about to leave work when I read it, and it’s hard to put into words how it made me feel. This man that I had known for so many years, who I was in love with, who I thought was an amazing person – I had this sudden realisation that this man did not exist. I finished reading the article and physically threw up.
Who was this person that I had brought into my life, and into my family’s lives? I was suddenly terrified that I was so close to someone that I clearly knew nothing about. I started trying to drive home from work but I had to stop at a friend’s house because I couldn’t make it home. I felt taken advantage of and misled into having feelings for someone who didn’t deserve them. I had been supporting someone who was a complete monster, and I had no idea about it whatsoever.
Did Ben have ulterior motives for being with me? I’ve gone through our relationship a lot in my head. I know he wasn’t with me for money reasons, because I don’t have a lot of money. But when we were first together, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself. He was my first boyfriend, and I was quite bewitched by him.
But knowing what I do now, I can see certain similarities between myself and Peter, in the sense that Peter had never really been in a relationship before meeting Ben either. It makes me wonder if I was a test dummy for some of his actions, and if I was used purely as a way of making him seem normal. All his previous relationships had been with women who were older than him, so maybe he needed someone who was closer to his own age to make him seem more credible.
On 20 May 2019 I went to Ben’s sentencing, and he saw me in the gallery. He smiled at me, which confused me even more. Then he mouthed to me, ‘are you OK?’ And I just thought, does this person have any comprehension of what he’s done and how he’s made people feel? It’s almost as if he still thought he was going to get away with it, he seemed almost blasé about it.
When he was sentenced for murder, he had no emotion on his face. He didn’t cry, he didn’t smile, he didn’t frown. He just looked up at the judge with a really straight face, and not once did he look at anyone in the gallery. It’s like he wasn’t capable of showing true emotion, or he just didn’t want us to know how he felt.
Watching his parents and his brother, who I’d briefly met before, go through it all was very hard. His mum turned to me at the sentencing and apologised for the pain and hurt that Ben had caused me. I thought I was doing OK but at that point I just completely broke down. I told her that I didn’t think any of it was her fault and that I wanted her to remember that. I told her that she didn’t need to apologise on his behalf.
When he was sentenced it was the closing of a very dark chapter. I was relieved that Peter got the justice he deserved, and I was relieved for his family. I can’t imagine what it was like for them to have someone take advantage of a person they loved and cared about. I would have hated for Ben not to have got the sentence that he rightfully deserved.
But I felt sadness as well. I still cared about him even though he had done all these things, which is confusing in itself because I don’t want to feel that way about someone so horrible.
This whole experience has definitely made me more wary and less trusting of others. I try and tell myself that I need to take this as an opportunity to learn from it in a way that means that I won’t ever feel like I’ve been taken advantage of again. One thing it has done is it means I’m not as naïve as I once was. Looking back, there were times when I should have questioned what Ben was doing, or I should have said something. But I didn’t have the confidence to say anything because he seemed so lovely and charming, so I never had the guts to ask him about anything.
But now I think, if I have a question to ask I should just ask it. My main issue going forward is trust.
I’ve been given details for victim support, but I haven’t contacted them yet. It’s a complicated story and probably the hardest thing I’ve found about this experience is that no one I know has ever been through something like this, so it’s hard to find someone who could possibly know how I feel. It’s been a lonely process to go through because as much as I explain it to people they don’t really understand.
I am hoping that by doing the documentary and talking to people, the easier it will be to talk about it, and when I’m ready to speak with a counsellor I’ll be able to do so. I also hope that raising awareness of people like Ben will mean that elderly people who are vulnerable or lonely might not be taken advantage of. I hope by taking part in the documentary I might help stop at least one person from being treated the way that Peter was.
I’ve thought a lot about whether I’ll ever speak to Ben again in the future. I want to ask him why he was in a relationship with me. But even if he gives me an answer, how can I know it’s the truth? I don’t think I can believe anything he says to me, ever again.