Walking on the beach at Hunstanton, we found ourselves compelled to look at naked UK swimmers. One tanned man in a thong – Jane, avert your eyes! – and, flexing his muscles, looked rather like a condom stuffed with conkers. Then I saw myself in a window, my hat askew, a blob of ice cream on my nose, flies undone, so who on earth am I to judge?
As so often on our walks, we are overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers, the generosity of supporters who take us in, usually sight unseen. One startled lady told me she was actually expecting someone else, “but perhaps you’ll do!” I think I passed muster!
Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing
You may have watched TV’s The Sixth Commandment recently? It detailed the ghastly experience of Peter Farquhar, who was sexually exploited and then murdered by the vicious Ben Field.
I knew Peter in the early 1990s when he was the Benyon daughters’ English teacher at Stowe School. Our relationship was more than casual – I tried to help him, wholly unsuccessfully, to get his books published. He was an excellent writer but publishing novels is a cruel game and he fell into the Clement Freud category: “Any fool can write a book, but it takes a genius to sell one!”
Peter was a gentle and very shy man. He was gay but as a deeply committed Christian, he had remained celibate. His unhappiness and desperate loneliness were brilliantly drawn by actor Timothy Spall.
In Cold Blood
Years ago, US author Scott Peck wrote a couple of brilliant books. The Road Less Travelled won worldwide acclaim but the less well-known The People of the Lie was equally insightful. In brief, Peck claimed that real wickedness is not just straightforward violence and crookery, which is bad enough. Real evil has yet another dimension, where the cold-blooded perpetrator cloaks his or her wickedness behind a mask of false kindness and virtue. For example, I wasn’t surprised when a large army of priests were discovered hiding behind holy office whilst sexually abusing the children they had caught in their claws.
Ben Field pretended to love poor Peter. He then “married” him and persuaded him to change his will. Then he drugged Peter to make him feel like he was going crazy before finally strangling him.
Believe this: I attended the funeral service for Peter where Field – who had, of course, callously murdered him – gave the oration in his memory.
Field was caught after trying the same routine on a retired headmistress who lived a few doors away from Peter’s old house in Maids Moreton, Buckingham. Luckily, when Field came to change her will, he tried to employ the services of the same solicitor he had used for Peter. The solicitor smelled a rat – and what a rat he turned out to be! Fortunately, Field was jailed for life and will serve at least 38 years. Good!
Butter Wouldn’t Melt
Recently, another example of supreme evil dominated news headlines. Smiling, blue-eyed Lucy Letby, hiding behind the mask of the perceived virtue of her profession, murdered at least seven infants. No one could believe that such a gentle, innocent-looking woman, marinated in infant care, would stoop to such evil acts. Now we know.
There are, of course, cries in the Telegraph that we should debate the return of the death penalty. Probably, in the event of a referendum on the subject, its promoters would effortlessly win.
I remember 19 July 1979 well. Parliament debated whether capital punishment should, once again, be available as a penalty in the courts. I was the MP who succeeded Airey Neave (following his assassination by the IRA in the Commons car park). To the consternation of many constituents, I voted against the motion. First, there had been several well publicised miscarriages of justice. Second, experienced lawyers warned me that if a jury knew that a defendant found guilty faced possible execution, the law of unintended consequences could bite. The jury might be afraid to convict, and guilty people might escape justice.
Last, in a debate in 1974, Lord Hailsham told the House of Lords that the death penalty is “a horrible and degrading thing”. He was as right then as he is now.