United Kingdom

Church's traditional views are blamed for the murder of gay OAP

The Church of England’s traditional views on sex and marriage were to blame for a gay academic’s murder, an inquiry said yesterday.

It found Peter Farquhar, 69, was vulnerable to exploitation by his 29-year-old killer Benjamin Field because he could not discuss his sexuality with the conservative evangelical members of his parish church.

Field seduced then slowly poisoned Mr Farquhar after persuading him to write him into his will.

The student, the son of a Baptist minister, then tried to manipulate Ann Moore-Martin, 83, again starting a sexual relationship in order to benefit from her will.

Undated handout file photo issued by Thames Valley Police of Peter Farquhar and Benjamin Field at their betrothal ceremony

He was last year sentenced to at least 36 years for Mr Farquhar’s 2015 murder.

The report for the Diocese of Oxford by former social services chief Dr Adi Cooper pinned the blame on the attitudes of the congregation and clergy at Stowe parish church in Buckinghamshire, where Mr Farquhar was a member and Field a churchwarden.

It will pile new pressure on the Church as it struggles with the fallout from historic child sex abuse.

Dr Cooper said: ‘The current position taken by the Church of England, continuing to insist that sex is for married couples only... is not conducive to disclosure, particularly from young people, as well as exposing people to risk.

‘This needs to change and the Church should consider how to make it possible for people to be honest about their relationships, as well as being a safe place for lesbians and gay men.’

Undated handout photo issued by Thames Valley Police of Peter Farqhuar (right) and Benjamin Field

Mr Farquhar was a retired Buckingham University lecturer and former Stowe School teacher, who had four novels published.

Dr Cooper said the academic’s sexuality and his relationship with Field were a ‘well-known secret’.

But she added it could not be openly discussed because homosexuality was seen as deviant by the church and its congregation.

‘The wider policies of the Church of England regarding homosexual practice and approach to sexuality and relationships put Peter Farquhar at risk and vulnerable to exploitation,’ the report said. ‘Whilst people continue to feel forced to hide or lie about their sexuality, they can become vulnerable to exploitation, as was Peter Farquhar.’

Among 13 recommendations, Dr Cooper called on the Oxford diocese to challenge attitudes towards homosexuality.

The Church has been divided over gay rights for more than 30 years. Since 1991 its position has been that gay clergy should be celibate, but gay couples and actively gay people are welcome members of congregations. Repeated attempts by bishops to reconcile differences between liberal churchgoers and conservatives like the congregation at Stowe church have foundered.

The Right Rev Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, welcomed the report’s recommendations.

He said: ‘This review helps to challenge the commonly-held view that safeguarding is solely about preventing child abuse. It is a clarion call for further improvements to our work on LGBTI+ inclusivity, our selection processes for clergy and volunteers, and the training and support the Church provides.’   

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