Millionaire was ‘starved to death in cell by carer who planned to steal fortune’

A mum-of-three starved her millionaire landlord to death in a "foul, unhygienic cell" so she could inherit his fortune, a trial has heard.

Carer Lynda Rickard, 62, "isolated and controlled" frail live-in landlord James "Anthony" Sootheran, 59, before his severely malnourished body was found at his home in High Havens Farm, near South Newington, Oxfordshire, in March 2014.

Reading Crown Court was told his body was surrounded by chocolate bars, donuts and a McDonald's bag that looked "fresher than him".

Lynda had previously admitted forging the will of Anthony's 92-year-old mum, Joy, in a bid to gain half of the £1.5 million estate.

She also pleaded guilty forging Anthony's will so she could inherit a third of his £3.5 million fortune when he died.

Mrs Rickard, who used to live at at the farm, also confessed to spending thousands of pounds of the Sootherans' money, the jury heard.

Lynda and husband Wayne Rickard, both from Banbury, Oxfordshire, deny murder.

The couple moved into a farmhouse set on 60 acres of woodland owned by Anthony in 2006.

Just 18 months after elderly Joy died having suffered with dementia, the body of Anthony was discovered in his home, having been under the care of Lynda Rickard, the jury heard.

The Rickards categorically denied murdering their live-in landlord for financial gain, but claimed it was the consequence of his own self-neglect and entirely coincidental to Lynda having forged his will.

Just six months before his frail body was discovered on March 18 2014, Anthony's cousin Richard Stubbs visited him the farm and was "horrified" at what he witnessed.

The court heard that on arrival, mother-of-three Lynda attempted to cancel the meeting as she had many times before but Mr Stubbs persisted and forced his way into Anthony's bedroom upstairs.

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Oliver Saxby QC, prosecuting, said: "Both Anthony and his room, were in a terrible state. He was thin and frail. The bed linen was stained and looked like it had not been changed in months. A window pane was broken.

"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."

Anthony told Mr Stubbs that he never left his room and had last seen Lynda 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.

Mr Stubbs was so horrified that he took photos which the jury members were shown.

In addition to murder, Lynda Rickard, of Edinburgh Close, Banbury, Oxon., also denies gross negligence manslaughter; fraud; and two counts of perverting the course of justice.

Bearded American Wayne Rickard, 66, and of the same address as his wife, was additionally charged with causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult after Anthony was discovered deceased in his bedroom; fraud; and perverting the course of justice.

He also denies murder.

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

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

The trial continues.

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