The Sixth Commandment: Inside the heartbreaking true story of the BBC drama starring Timothy Spall and Anne Reid

The Sixth Commandment tells a devastating true story that left Timothy Spall feeling a sense of 'massive responsibility' to get it 'right'

The Sixth Commandment starring Timothy Spall as Peter Farquhar
(Image credit: Wild Mercury Productions/BBC)

The Sixth Commandment is the BBC’s new true crime drama written by A Very British Scandal’s Sarah Phelps and is set to be incredibly heart-wrenching and impactful.

Whilst the cases that are explored in some crime shows were investigated decades ago, the chilling events depicted in The Sixth Commandment took place much more recently. The same year ITV’s true crime drama Manhunt was released - 2019 - Ben Field was convicted for the murder of Peter Farquhar and for defrauding Ann Martin-Moore. Played in The Sixth Commandment by Timothy Spall, some of Peter’s family and friends have spoken out about the show ahead of its release and about their memories of his life. Anne Reid stars alongside Timothy as Ann in the BBC drama, with Éanna Hardwicke playing Field.

Here we explain The Sixth Commandment true story, including where Field is now, how Timothy approached playing Peter and how you can watch the poignant drama.

*Warning: Spoilers and sensitive subject matters ahead*

Peter Farquhar (TIMOTHY SPALL)

(Image credit: BBC/Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle)

The Sixth Commandment true story explained 

Following on from the dramas telling the tale of the Steeltown Murders true story and Sherwood true story, the BBC’s latest true crime drama is every bit as tragic. Named after the Biblical Sixth Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill", it tells the real-life tale of the horrific murder of teacher and lecturer Peter Farquhar by Ben Field. One of Peter Farquhar’s friends, Michael Crick, has written a heart wrenchingly poignant piece about his late mentor in The Times ahead of the premiere of The Sixth Commandment. 

In it, he expressed his belief that acclaimed British actor Timothy Spall is “brilliant” at “capturing the inner turmoil” of Peter, whom he’d known for almost five decades. He explained that Peter had come to meet Field during his time lecturing at the University of Birmingham. As revealed by Michael, Field “inveigled his way” into Peter’s life and after “just a few meetings” had confessed his love for him. 

Peter was a committed Christian and was looking for a loving relationship with a deeper connection, with Michael writing that his friend “felt unable” to establish a relationship with another man “because his church regarded them as a sin”. Reflecting on the terrifying influence Field began to assert over Peter’s life, Michael disclosed that Field drugged Peter’s food and drink, giving him hallucinations. 


(Image credit: BBC/Wild Mercury)

Field’s said to have also alleged to Peter’s close friends and family that the lecturer had a problem with alcohol. Then, in 2015, Field murdered Peter, leaving a bottle of whiskey beside him to create a false impression of how he died and later inherited his money. The Sixth Commandment true story then took another devastating turn when Field turned his sights on 83-year-old Ann Moore-Martin who had also never married and was a devout Christian. 

She was a neighbor of Peter’s and Field went on to tell Ann he loved her too, before attempting to convince her to change her will in his favor. He even wrote messages on her mirrors purporting to be from God encouraging her to do so. She did ultimately change her will as he’d wanted her to before she passed away in 2017 but her niece Ann-Marie soon got suspicious and contacted the police.

Ann Moore Martin (ANNE REID)

(Image credit: BBC/Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle)

Field was arrested and in 2019, the jury found him guilty of Peter’s murder and for defrauding Ann, though he wasn’t convicted for attempting to murder her or for conspiring to kill her. Prior to the verdict, Field maintained that he’d not been responsible for Peter’s death, but that he had drugged and manipulated him. 

Discussing the immense sense of “responsibility” he felt as part of The Sixth Commandment cast, Timothy Spall who plays Peter in the show told that he did his “very best” for him. 

“It's a massive responsibility when you're playing a real human being who was a family man, as they live on with love in people's hearts,” the actor explained. "It's never lost on me and I have done my very best for Peter.”

Peter Farquhar (TIMOTHY SPALL)

(Image credit: BBC/Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle)

Timothy expressed how “important” it was to him to “get it right” when portraying Peter and to do so in a way that his family can be “behind” the project too.

“I'm not trying to make it sound like some worthy, noble thing, but you're telling a story about someone who's loved and remembered and was alive not that long ago. It's so important to me that the family are behind this; he was a much-loved human being who died so tragically. So you really do want to get it right,” Timothy declared. 

Focusing on Peter and Ann is something that The Sixth Commandment star believes is key to the BBC drama. Referencing several notorious British serial killers, Timothy lamented how all too easily it’s the killers who are remembered for their reign of terror, whilst those whose lives they took away are less well-known. 

Peter Farquhar (TIMOTHY SPALL)

(Image credit: BBC/Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle)

"Throughout history, the people who become famous in the terrible drama of a murder tend not to be the victims but the murderers," he shared. "How much do we know about the victims of Jack the Ripper? Or the victims of Harold Shipman? This story [The Sixth Commandment] shows you what these people who were victims of this behavior were like so that in a sense, it's a tribute to them."

The dramatization of The Sixth Commandment true story is something that Peter’s brother, Ian Farquhar has told The Mirror he hopes will help other people in a similar position to Peter and Ann.

Ann Moore Martin (ANNE REID)

(Image credit: BBC/Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle)

“Peter and Ann were not stupid people. Yet they were fooled by this man who was intelligent for evil purposes,” he said. “Take care of your older relatives or if you’re living on your own – be very careful if somebody comes along. Who’s got their eyes on your wealth or anything else, they may want from you. We don’t want anyone to go through what we have gone through.” 

Where is Ben Field now? 

Convicted murderer Ben Field is currently serving his prison sentence for the murder of Peter and defrauding Ann. He was convicted in 2019, four years after Peter’s death and over a year after he was arrested. Field was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 36 years.  


(Image credit: Wild Mercury Productions/BBC)

How to watch The Sixth Commandment 

UK viewers can watch The Sixth Commandment live at 9pm on BBC One on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the final episode of the four-episode series set to air on Tuesday, July 25. Episodes will also be made available to stream for free via BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately, no US air date has been currently confirmed for the BBC show. 

Sadly, if you’re going to be on vacation abroad outside the UK when you want to watch The Sixth Commandment then you won’t be able to watch as you normally would at home. Luckily there’s an easy solution and you can use a VPN to continue watching.

Ann Moore Martin (ANNE REID)

(Image credit: BBC/Wild Mercury/Amanda Searle)

This is a handy bit of software that changes your IP address so that you can access on-demand content or live TV just as if you were at home. Our sister site, TechRadar, has tested all of the major VPN services and they rate ExpressVPN as the absolute best. They say, “It’s compatible with all of your devices, supports most streaming services, and ranks among the fastest. You can even install it on devices like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox, and PlayStation. So for a one-stop-shop, you can’t go wrong with Express.”   


ExpressVPN service | Get 49% off and 3 months FREE  

Ranked among one of the fastest VPN providers, this risk-free service is also compatible with all of your devices. Enjoy access to almost any streaming service, and if you don't like it there's a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you've never installed a VPN before, don't worry, it's quick and easy. Just follow these three steps:

  1. Download and install the VPN following ExpressVPN's easy-to-follow instructions.
  2. Once you've installed your VPN, open the app and select your server location as anywhere in the UK.
  3. With your VPN installed and server location set to UK, you can now watch World on Fire online. 

VPN disclaimer

(Image credit: Future)
Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!