A carer and her husband ‘starved’ their live-in landlord to death in a bid to inherit his £3.5 million estate, a jury heard on the second day of their re-trial.
The skeletal body of James ‘Anthony’ Sootheran, who once weighed 17 stone, was found on March 18, 2014, in his bedroom in Oxfordshire.
Lynda, 62, and Wayne Rickard, 66, were arrested and jointly charged with murdering the 59-year-old former auctioneer’s clerk.
Today, the couple watched as prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC told a jury at Reading Crown Court that the case is ‘casual, opportunistic greed’.
The Rickards moved into High Havens farmhouse in the village of South Newington, Oxfordshire, in late 2006.
They had an arrangement that saw Lynda become a full-time carer for Mr Sootheran’s 92-year-old mother Joy until her death in August 2012.
Lynda, 62, and Wayne Rickard, 66, (together left, and Wayne, right) ‘starved’ their live-in landlord to death in a bid to inherit his £3.5 million estate, a jury heard on the second day of their re-trial
The skeletal body of James ‘Anthony’ Sootheran (pictured), who once weighed 17 stone, was found on March 18, 2014, in his bedroom in Oxfordshire
With Lynda as the driving force, the couple planned to plunder both his and his mother’s estates, the court heard.
Mother-of-three Lynda had previously admitted forging the will of pensioner Joy – who suffered from dementia – so she could gain half of her £1.5million inheritance.
She also admitted forging Mr Sootheran’s will so she could inherit a third of his £3.5million estate when he died.
The Rickards today denied murder, instead claiming Mr Sootheran’s death happening after Lynda forged the will was ‘entirely coincidental’.
Their defence counsel is set to claim Mr Sootheran died due to his own self-neglect.
The jury was told how Mr Sootheran was isolated from his beloved daughter HAnnah and that Lynda turned away friends and family who called to see him.
During the prosecution opening speech, the court heard how former social worker Lynda was paid £900 a week to look after Anthony’s mother, before she died from old age and dementia in August 2012.
The court was told how just before Joy’s death, hundreds of pounds was being spent in supermarkets more than once a week and numerous cash withdrawals were made on a regular basis.
Ironically, Anthony was found dead in his bedroom on March 18 2014, his body in a state of severe malnourishment.
A court heard in the months after his mothers death, Anthony spent time ‘hibernating in his room’ and did not want to be helped for fear that he would be returned to hospital under the Mental Health Order.
He had previously been sectioned for three months suffering from severe anxiety disorder.
At his mother’s funeral, Mr Sootheran was described as ‘dishevelled, unkempt and wild looking’ by witnesses.
Mr Saxby told the court: ‘This is a case about greed. Casual, opportunistic greed.
The Rickards moved into High Havens farmhouse in the village of South Newington, Oxfordshire, in late 2006. They had an arrangement that saw Lynda become a full-time carer for Mr Sootheran’s 92-year-old mother Joy (pictured) until her death in August 2012
‘In simple terms, assisted by her husband, Lynda Rickard starved Anthony Sootheran to death thereby satisfying her greed and securing for herself and her family the windfall she craved.
‘In short, for their own gain, they killed him – by isolating him, neglecting him, failing to obtain appropriate medical help for him and depriving him of food and drink,’ said the prosecutor.
He added: ‘His being isolated suited Lynda Rickard – it allowed her to tighten the net around him and exert her control over him and his affairs, over what he thought and what he did.’
The jury heard that ‘controlling’ Lynda found the perfect cover in Mr Sootheran due to him being a ‘recluse, prone to gross self-neglect’ with ‘complex mental health issues’.
Mr Saxby added: ‘[This] gave Lynda Rickard the perfect cover for precipitating his death, for setting him on a trajectory to die – something she was able to achieve behind closed door by isolating him, by utterly neglecting him, by failing to obtain appropriate medical care for him, by on occasion preventing medical assessments from taking place, by controlling him and his life and, ultimately, by depriving him of food and drink.’
Today, the jury of six men and seven women were warned they are set to see distressing images of Mr Sootheran lying dead with a ‘particularly nasty bed sore’.
Mr Saxby said: ‘They show him lying dead, in his room at the house he shared with the Rickards – as he was found by a doctor who popped in to see how he was.’
With Lynda as the driving force, the couple (Wayne, pictured outside court today) planned to plunder both his and his mother Joy’s estates, the court heard
Lynda admitted abusing her position as a carer to dishonestly use Mr Sootheran’s elderly mother Joy’s money as her own – stealing between £50,000 and £167,000.
She had previously admitted using between £40,000 and £133,000 of Mr Sootheran’s money for personal gain.
Should their plan have succeeded, the Rickards were set to gain almost £3.5million.
This was made up of the estimated £300,000 stolen from both of the Sootheran’s accounts; half of Joy’s will; a third of Mr Sootheran’s estate and the sale of High Haven’s farm which sold for £1.8million in 2018.
Standing alongside the Rickards in the dock today were friends Shanda Robinson, 51, Denise Neal, 41, and Michael Dunkley, 49, who were all alleged to have become ’embroiled in [Lynda’s] dishonesty’.
Standing alongside the Rickards in the dock today were friends Shanda Robinson, 51, Denise Neal, 41, (right) and Michael Dunkley, 49, (left) who were all alleged to have become ’embroiled in [Lynda’s] dishonesty’
Mr Saxby QC said: ‘Shanda Robinson and Lynda Rickard were close.
‘Denise Neal helped Lynda Rickard look after Joy Sootheran at High Havens Farm, and the Rickards are godparents to Michael Dunkley’s son.’
The signing of pensioner Joy’s forged will was witnessed by two signatories, 78-year-old June Alsford – who previously admitted to signing the will knowing it was not genuine – and defendant Ms Robinson who denied fraud and perverting the course of justice.
Ms Neal and Mr Dunkley denied they signed Mr Sootheran’s forged will knowing that it was not genuine.
Defendant Shanda Robinson (pictured) denied fraud and perverting the course of justice
Mr Saxby QC said: ‘There was this will. Anthony’s will. And the prospect of a windfall.
‘But Anthony needed to die. That, with a view to securing this inheritance and with Wayne Rickard’s assistance, Lynda Rickard precipitated Anthony Sootheran’s death.
‘Lynda Rickard says that Anthony Sootheran’s demise was a consequence of how he chose to live his life and that his death was entirely coincidental to her having forged his will.
‘Good timing, as it were. Instead, she did everything she could to help him and was devastated by his death – he being someone, she says, who she cared for deeply.
‘Albeit as her guilty pleas show, this did not stop her using his money as her own or forging his will.’
In addition to murder, Lynda denies gross negligence manslaughter, fraud and two counts of perverting the course of justice.
American Wayne was additionally charged with causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult, fraud and perverting the course of justice.
Mr Dunkley stood charged with fraud in relation to the forged will of Mr Sootheran alongside Ms Neal.
Ms Robinson denied fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The five defendants are out on bail.