Millionaire 'found dead next to chocolate bars, doughnut and McDonald's after carer starved him to inherit fortune'

A MILLIONAIRE was found dead next to chocolate bars, doughnuts and a bag of McDonald's after his carer starved him to inherit his fortune, a court heard.

James “Anthony” Sootheran, 59, had been held captive in a "foul, unhygienic cell" and was found starved to death, Reading Crown Court was told.

The wealthy landlord's frail body was discovered in his bedroom on March 18, 2014 weighing just nine stone, around half his former weight.

A horrified doctor found Mr Sootheran's body next to a plate of chocolate bars, a doughnut and a bag of McDonalds that looked “fresher than him,” the jury was told.

Lynda and Wayne Rickard, who deny murder, had moved into Mr Sootheran's farmhouse South Newington, Oxfordsnhire, in 2006.

The pair planned to defraud his estate and his 92-year-old mother Joy, the court heard.


Lynda Rickard, 62, had previously admitted forging Joy's will where she was set to gain half of the £1.5million estate.

She conceded she had forged the will of the pensioner's only son Mr Sootheran – where she would inherit a third of his £3.5million fortune when he died.

Just 18 months after she died with dementia, her only son's malnourished body was discovered, having been under Lynda Rickard's care, the jury heard.

Dr Hilary Edwards made the grim discovery at High Havens Farm after Lynda Rickard told the GP she had not seen Mr Sootheran since the previous morning.

We say that the Rickards wanted him dead, that his death suited their purposes

Prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC said: “They entered the address and both went upstairs to Anthony’s room. The smell was terrible. Lynda Rickard made a play of knocking loudly but there was no response.

“They both entered and there they found Anthony, severely emaciated and dead. He was lying, naked from the waist down, on a mattress on the floor with a stained duvet over him.”

The doctor said the room looked, ‘cleaner than normal’ and that were new clothes on the chair and food, the prosecuting counsel added.

Police body-worn camera footage of the gruesome scene was played to the jury yesterday.

They saw a skeleton-like man lying on a crumpled mattress on the floor – with a plate of chocolate bars, toast and an apple placed beside his head and a doughnut in a bag by his feet.

Mr Saxby said: “One police officer has a vague memory of there being a bucket in the room used as a toilet. The blanket was wet, the room smelled of urine and it was freezing cold.

“And the food, as you have seen it in the footage, looked fresh – fresher than Anthony, as one of the officers put it. Indeed, it seemed almost as if it had been placed there after his death.”

He added: "We say that the Rickards wanted him dead, that his death suited their purposes.

"Will, death, inheritance. They say that they did not realise how serious the situation was and that he wanted to live like that.

"Had he been referred for medical treatment when his life was first seriously in danger, in other words, a week or so before he died, Anthony would have survived.

"Lynda Rickard – forged will in mind – was perfectly happy for him to die. We say, not only did she neglect him, with her husband’s support and assistance but she also played an active part in accelerating his death."

The Rickards denied murdering their live-in landlord, but claimed it was the consequence of his own self-neglect.

Just six months before his body was discovered, Mr Sootheran's cousin Richard Stubbs visited him at the farm and was "horrified" at what he witnessed.

Mr Saxby, said: “Both Anthony and his room, were in a terrible state. He was thin and frail.

"In the corner, there was a pile of Anthony’s hair. There was no television in the room. There were no books, or magazines. In short, it was a cell. A foul, unhygienic, cell."

Mr Sootheran told Mr Stubbs that he never left his room and had last seen LyndaRickard the previous evening, meaning he had not eaten or drunk that day, a jury heard.

“Anthony said he was worried about upsetting Lynda Rickard and scared of being evicted and placed in a mental health institution. He was totally dependent on Lynda Rickard and she was failing to feed him or take any care to ensure he had safe, clean living conditions,” the prosecuting counsel added.

Lynda Rickard of Banbury, Oxon., denies murder, gross negligence manslaughter, fraud, and two counts of perverting the course of justice.

Wayne Rickard, 66, denies murder and was also charged with causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult, fraud; and perverting the course of justice.

Michael Dunkley,49,of Bloxham, near Banbury, Oxon., stood charged with fraud in relation to Mr Sootheran's forged will alongside 41-year-old Denise Neal, of Lower Tysoe, Warwickshire.

Shanda Robinson, 51, of Banbury, denied fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The hearing continues.

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