ONELove stories all have delicate gentle moments. In the first episode of BBC One’s The Sixth Commandment, Peter (Timothy Spall) and Ben (Éanna Hardwicke) climb a hill. Panting and squinting in the sun, they told each other that they fell in love for the first time. Unable to contain his happiness, Peter put his arm around Ben, who lifted him off the ground so that his feet were dangling just above the grass. Two men entwined. But this is no ordinary love story – it’s the tragic true case of a lonely man being murdered by the very person he thought he would share the rest of his life with.
The Sixth Commandment tells the true story of the meeting of a beloved teacher, Peter Farquhar, and a charming, erudite young student, Ben Field, who initiated one of the strangest, most macabre criminal cases. in recent memory. In the early 2010s, Churchwarden Field began a campaign of harassment, disguised as love, against Farquhar, a devout Christian forty years his senior. Field tricked Farquhar, who had struggled with sex all his life, into a relationship and took advantage of his longing for company, becoming the sole beneficiary of his will. For several years, he drugged him with hallucinogens and encouraged him to drink. The fusion effect made Farquhar think he was losing his mind.
Finally, Field killed Farquhar in 2015, making it appear that the 69-year-old had drunk himself to death and pocketed his inheritance. He then moves on to his next victim, Farquhar’s elderly neighbor Ann Moore-Martin, a retired school principal and devoted Catholic, played by Anne Reid in the film. TV. The pair begin an affair and the teasing begins again, as Field writes biblical messages on Moore-Martin’s mirror at home, telling her to leave her home for him. Ann finally died of natural causes in 2017, but not before telling her niece about orders she believed came from God. Thanks to Moore-Martin’s niece alerting the police, Field was discovered – he admitted to defrauding both Farquhar and Moore-Martin, showed no remorse, and was sentenced to a minimum of 36 years in prison for the murder of Farquhar and Moore-Martin. other crimes.
“Ultimately, this is a story about love,” says series author Sarah Phelps. “On the desire to be loved and the expressions of love – there is this deceptive, deceptive expression, and then the real, deep, motivating love of families.”
When Farquhar met Field, he had suppressed his sexuality for years and resigned himself to loneliness. At one point in the movie, he tells his brother, “You can’t imagine my life before. [meeting Ben] and I need you to imagine it. I need you to imagine my absolute despair. You can stand with [your wife] Sue before God, get married, have children, and our church smiles at you. Your life is full, but I, I must be untouched, unloved and only living a small part of my life. And it was in torment and loneliness and self-loathing and grief. Ben brought me to life. And I am loved.”
Spall says it was the internal battle that Farquhar had to fight that drew him to the role. “In Peter, I see a real tension between someone trying to reconcile their desires with their faith, and in that attempt to reconcile, the denial is almost real,” he said. its economy, along with it being the object of a prayer, so a perfect answer to a prayer he couldn’t believe. And I think that’s the truly profound tragedy of it: that this man, who had given up hope of love, found it. And he died sincerely believing it was still there.”
In an unusual move for a true crime drama, the police investigation doesn’t begin until the third and penultimate episode; The first two seasons focus on Farquhar and Moore-Martin in their later years. “I don’t want to praise Ben,” says Phelps, explaining that she wants to avoid the “cat and mouse” story between the police and the killer. “I really wanted to tell the story of Peter and Ann. I wanted to foretell their lives, not their deaths. On the other hand, it’s the cunning perpetrator and the stubborn cop, and while the cop is phenomenal, I don’t want to give Ben Field the impression that he’s the main character. I wanted Peter and Ann to be the main part of the story – along with their families and the people who loved them.”
From Farquhar’s diary to Field’s workbook and piles of police transcripts, the pile of source material Phelps used when writing the program was almost on her shoulders. And much of the dialogue in the series is taken verbatim from Farquhar’s notes. “Peter wrote everything down, and that means he didn’t know it, he was narrating what happened to him,” Phelps said. Peter’s diary formed the absolute core basis of the police investigation and subsequent prosecution.”
When the first volume opens, Field is heard giving a lecture. These words are taken from a real sermon he gave while on bail at his father’s church, on the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” (named the film). In it, he questioned whether the commandment would apply if death would “put an end to man’s misery”. He said that “lawfully enforced norms” are less important than one’s personal beliefs.
A friend of Farquhar, Channel 4 News political reporter Michael Crick, describes his experience meeting Field for the first time at the trial. “The amazing thing about him is that he’s incredibly smart, incredibly well-educated, and that’s what attracted Peter,” he said. “So I just sat there in the court, looking at him, thinking, ‘God, this guy is so convincing, so charming,’ and you can see how Peter and Ann are going to fall in love with him, And that’s what’s scary.”
Farquhar and Moore-Martin were not alone in being tricked by Field, who also manipulated the people at the church where he was training to be a vicar, and many in Farquhar and Moore-Martin’s lives. “You don’t know how he’s going to be ordained,” Phelps said. He also has an impression of elders. Director Saul Dibb called him a “strange character” who “works in nursing homes and is a funeral director”.
The Sixth Commandment was made with the full cooperation of the Farquhar and Moore-Martin families. “They fully supported it,” said Phelps, “and they said we honored the people they loved.” Reid met Moore-Martin’s niece, Anne-Marie Baker, when she was preparing for the role and was blessed by her to play her late aunt. “I don’t want to pretend to be Ann,” Reid said. “I saw a little movie of hers, and we weren’t really alike, certainly not in terms of looks, but when I read the script, I believed it. It is beautifully written.” She said she knew right away if she could complete a role, adding, “I feel that if I knew Ann, we would actually get along pretty well. But playing someone whose loved ones are still there and still loving them is a terrible responsibility.”
Phelps wanted the film as a warning to viewers. “I hope it makes people wary of that very special kind of trespass, just to be aware of manipulation and people breaking boundaries in a very, very subtle way,” she said.
Spall, meanwhile, offers a powerful reminder of the broader ramifications of a murder. “When someone is killed, that person is dead,” he said. “But you also kill a large portion of the souls of those who love them.”
He stopped to think. “And those who love that perpetrator – it will also kill a part of their souls.”
‘The Sixth Commandment’ premieres on BBC One at 9pm on Monday 17 July