A church warden and a magician have been arrested on suspicion of the double murder of two elderly teachers living in the same Buckinghamshire village.
Thames Valley Police have announced that they are treating the deaths of 69-year-old Peter Farquhar in October 2015 and Ann Moore-Martin, 83, who died a year-and-a-half later in May 2017, as murder.
The causes of death are yet to be determined, police said.
The two pensioners lived three houses apart in Manor Park in the village of Maids Moreton, near Buckingham.
Farquhar’s lodger, Ben Field, 27, a church warden, and friend 31-year-old Martyn Smith, a magician, have been named locally as two of three men arrested as part of the double-murder inquiry.
Four properties in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, Towcester, Northamptonshire, and Redruth in Cornwall are being searched by detectives.
It is understood that both men helped look after Farquhar as his health deteriorated in the final months of his life.
The two students at the University of Buckingham, where Farquhar worked as a guest lecturer, also persuaded their former teacher to publish his novels.
They also set up a company with Farquhar, called Farquhar Studies Ltd, in order to publish the academic’s work.
A University of Buckingham spokeswoman said: “The students were suspended as soon as police informed us of the allegations.
“We cannot comment further pending the police investigation.”
An article on the Buckinghamshire and Winslow Advertiser website dated 22 August, 2015, covers a local book signing at Stowe House for the release of Farquhar’s third novel A Wide Wide Sea.
It states: “The book is finally seeing the light of day thanks to two students from the University of Buckingham, Ben Field and Martyn Smith who discovered the handwritten manuscripts and persuaded Mr Farquhar to publish it.
“Together, they established Farquhar Studies, with the aim of releasing more unpublished work, including critical work, poetry and stories.”
The dedication in Farquhar’s book reads: “This book is dedicated to MARTYN SMITH and BEN FIELD whose encouragement was invaluable and without whom this book would not exist.”
Farquhar used to be a lay preacher at Stowe Parish Church where Field is listed as a deputy warden.
He previously taught at Manchester Grammar School and Stowe School in Buckinghamshire.
Channel 4 News political correspondent Michael Crick, who was taught byFarquhar at Manchester Grammar School and who remained life-long friends with him, said he was shocked by the police investigation.
He told the Press Association: “Peter’s death was very sudden and sad and it is all the more distressing that police are treating it as a possible murder.
“He was one of the most extraordinary teachers of my life and many former pupils of Stowe and Manchester Grammar School would agree.
“He was a very inspirational teacher to whom I owe a lot. He was somewhat of a father figure to many of us.”
According to Crick’s 2015 obituary of Farquhar in The Guardian, he was born in Edinburgh before being educated at Latymer Upper School in London and Churchill College, Cambridge.
As well as lecturing, Farquhar published three novels, and a character in the 2013 football film Believe was based on him during his time teaching in Manchester.
Professor Stefan Hawlin, English literature programme director at the University of Buckingham, said: “He was a charming, erudite and deeply thoughtful man, he was thoroughly learned in literature. He was very well thought of.”
A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: “The causes of death are yet to be determined.”
The 27-year-old man from Towcester and the 31-year-old, from Redruth, have been detained on suspicion of two counts of murder, two counts of conspiracy to murder, two counts of suspicion of fraud by false representation, one count of conspiracy to defraud and one count of burglary.
The younger man has also been arrested on suspicion of a second count of burglary.
Meanwhile, a 22-year-old man from Milton Keynes has been arrested on suspicion of one count of conspiracy to defraud, one count of conspiring to commit fraud by false representation and one count of suspicion of fraud by false representation.