Directly based on the deaths of the elderly Peter Farquhar and Ann-Moore Martin in the late 2010s in Buckinghamshire, Saul Dibb’s 4-part drama series is an emotional nerve-wrecker. It showcases how two kind-hearted people in the twilight of their lives fall prey to a remorseless murderer named Ben Field. Ben was an insurance fraudster who duped the elderly by making them believe his lies about love and companionship, and he would make them sign their wills to him before he took their lives. Although not unheard of as a crime, the diabolical way in which Ben ruined the lives of his victims before dealing the final blow is what makes this miniseries so painful to watch. There was one thing in common between both of Ben’s victims, though: they were deeply lonely. Ben used this weakness in the lives of two absolutely harmless people and capitalized on it like a parasite, with the ulterior aim of destroying their lives. Let’s explore how the loneliness in the lives of Peter and Anne made them the unsuspecting victims of such an inhumane crime in Dibb’s The Sixth Commandment.
Peter Farquhar was a 69-year-old man who had led a quiet life, and the only sources of joy for this retired schoolteacher would be writing and having pleasant meals whenever his brother Ian and his wife Sue dropped by. A devout Christian, Peter considered his homosexuality a sin in the eyes of the church and, hence, had never acted on his physical desires, despite being utterly and terribly lonely his entire life. Peter spent his days as a guest lecturer at a university, and at other times, he laid his soul bare in the diaries where he’d recorded his entire life. Going through his diaries would clearly reveal that Peter had felt the pangs of loneliness, but for fear of being perceived as unnatural in society, his desires had to be satisfied through literature. He trimmed his rose bushes regularly and paused to stare at the brilliant hues the sky would be painted in during the afternoons. The play of colors in the sky and in his garden starkly contrasted with the utter emptiness that was inside his heart.
Farquhar wasn’t exactly the life of the party at his age, but he was polite, well-spoken, and rather intelligent, but he’d never use these to his advantage. A good man through and through, he’d not let his students realize that nobody waited for him at home, and each night, he’d have to go to sleep in a single bed because he’d never known the feelings of companionship. Just like sharks can smell blood in the water and be harkened to the source, loneliness invited an evil so malevolent that it destroyed Peter’s life.
A young man who was a student in his class, Ben Field, started growing close to Peter, which made it very difficult for this sexagenarian to notice the red flags. Ben ticked all of Peter’s boxes: a passion for the Biblical scripture, a knack for poetry, and a willingness to shower this feeble, old man with love as he’d never known. It made sense why Peter ran to the church to thank the Lord when Ben asked him to marry him. The ploy is absolutely clear to the audience, who have time to retrospect how this inhumane wretch Ben wrapped his claws around Peter and slowly incarcerated him in a cage without an exit. It’s heartbreaking to watch this old man smile ear to ear with happiness without any idea that his life is about to be ruined by the man he’s so deeply in love with.
Ben was a predator in every sense of the word. He began by removing everyone from Peter’s life that he was close to, and he poisoned Ian against his brother by lying that Peter had taken to alcoholism. He was a skilled hunter who chose to toy with his victim before delivering the killing blow, and it was all made possible because Peter clung tight to Ben because this beautiful young man was a slow poison that Peter couldn’t live without. Slowly, Peter’s mind started going and then followed his physical strength, and by the time he’d pieced everything together, Ben had decided to end things. He forced Peter to drink till the elderly man died of alcohol poisoning, and the remorseless swine walked away with a portion of his victim’s house he could sell to buy himself a nice flat.
Three houses down from Peter lived Ann-Moore Martin, a woman in her 80s who would take her dog for a walk and, on other occasions, sit with her niece Ann-Marie and share the titbits of her boring life. Ann had never married and had settled down by herself, having accepted the fact that she was to spend the rest of her life in solitude. Her only companion was the dog she loved dearly, but soon after Ben showed up, Ann’s little canine pal strangely passed away. It was proven later that Ben had used the benzodiazepines that he poisoned Peter with on the dog to test their effectiveness. Such was the extent of Ben’s evil.
Two years after Peter’s death, Ben started frequenting Ann’s home and made himself an irreplaceable part of the old woman’s life. He knew exactly what to say and exactly which buttons to press to get Ann to slowly be inclined towards this new friend. However, his tactics were malevolent from the beginning; Ben went through Ann’s personal belongings and learned about her insecurities and sensitivities, triggering the emotions that she’d buried deep under her aged heart. Ben promised her companionship and made her feel young and loved again. But it was not too long before the same pattern of behavior returned, this time with a little psychological manipulation cocktail in there. He’d also begun administering the same poison he fed Peter. Ben grew into the vicar’s persona and scribbled on the mirrors of Ann’s home to make her think that God Himself was speaking to her. In her drugged and disoriented state, Ann believed the scribbles to be signs from God, while Ben manipulated her into making him a beneficiary of her will.
Ann was old and kind-hearted, which is why she couldn’t have imagined that a young man could fool her so deeply, and she let herself be swayed by his soothing words. It was her innocent self that prevented her from realizing that Ben had some diabolic intentions. Why else would a man so deeply in love with a woman constantly flee from any attempt by the woman’s family members to speak to him? Instead, Ann turned on her devoted niece, blaming her for not being able to see her octogenarian aunt happy, which is common when a person is being manipulated and gaslit. By the time she did realize that she was being toyed with before Ben would eventually end her life, it was too late for Ann, be it of the heartbreak she received at such an old age or the poisonous cocktail that Ben had forced on her, Ann died of ‘natural causes.’
The jury sentenced Ben to life imprisonment, and that was the moment his confident smile vanished, but that would never bring back the lives of those two people who had to die because of Ben’s evil. If only these two elderly people had found company in their lives and not been forced to spend their days in solitude they’d have been alive. Thus, loneliness is the vulnerability that weakens the heart before predators like Ben strike.