Murder trial jury sent home early over 'extreme heat' as UK swelters

23 July 2019, 20:42 | Updated: 24 July 2019, 11:54

A jury deliberating over a murder case have been sent home early due to "extreme heat".

It comes as Britain swelters - with temperatures expected to rise to up to 37C (98.6F) by the end of the week.

This could surpass the current daytime heat record for July, which is currently 36.7C (98.1F). And the country could endure its highest-ever night-time temperature on Thursday night.

Forecasters say there is a 40% chance the record of 23.9C (75F) - set in Brighton in August 1990 - could be broken.

Jurors are considering verdicts against a church warden and a magician accused of murdering a university lecturer and plotting to kill a retired headmistress.

Their deliberations were cut short when they complained of unbearable conditions in the room by sending a note to the trial judge, Mr Justice Sweeney.

The jury said they had the windows open and were using a fan but were unable to concentrate in the "extreme heat".

Mr Justice Sweeney said he would allow the panel to be sent home early and continue their deliberations on Wednesday morning.

He said: "It is clearly not appropriate for you to continue to deliberate in the conditions you describe and therefore I am inviting you to stop deliberating for the day."

Other cases being held at Oxford Crown Court have been called off due to a broken air conditioning system.

Benjamin Field, 28, and Martyn Smith, 32, both deny murdering Peter Farquhar, 69, and conspiring to murder Ann Moore-Martin, 83.

Field, a church warden, said he pretended to be in love with university lecturer Mr Farquhar, who was said to be torn about his sexuality because of his religion.

The suspect and the victim had been living together in Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire, and had taken part in a commitment ceremony.

Field admitted he had lied about loving the academic to "to increase my standing in [his] life and thereby inherit".

Mr Farquhar died in October 2015.

Prosecutors claim Field and Smith then targeted Miss Moore-Martin, who died of natural causes in 2017, after the alleged murder of Mr Farquhar.

They allege the pair conned Ms Moore-Martin out of thousands of pounds and said Field pretended to be in a relationship with the retired headmistress.

Both defendants deny charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and possession of an article for the use in fraud.

Field, from Buckinghamshire, also denies an alternative charge of attempted murder but has admitted four charges of fraud and two of burglary.

The case continues.