Carer, 62, found guilty of starving her live-in landlord son to death

Carer, 62, who forged will of elderly woman is found guilty of starving her live-in landlord son to death in bid to inherit £1.5m estate – as husband, 66, who failed to stop her is also convicted

  • Lynda Rickard and husband Wayne moved into Oxfordshire farmhouse in 2006
  • Was owned by James ‘Anthony’ Sootheran, who lived there with his mother Joy
  • Lynda cared for him and his aging mother but manufactured both their wills
  • Woman isolated Mr Sootheran and deliberately deprived him of food until death

A carer who deliberately starved her live-in landlord to death to inherit a slice of his multimillion-pound estate was convicted of murder today after his skeletal body was found next to a plate of McDonald’s.

Lynda Rickard and her husband Wayne moved into a Oxfordshire farmhouse set on 60 acres of land owned by James ‘Anthony’ Sootheran in 2006. 

The 62-year-old cared for his aging mother Joy Sootheran, but despite receiving £47,000 a year in her role, she soon started using the woman’s money as her own.

Mother-of-three Lynda had previously admitted forging the will of Ms Sootheran, in an attempt to gain half of her £1.5million estate. 

She also admitted to manufacturing the will of Mr Sootheran, the pensioner’s only son.

She claimed that Mr Sootheran’s death was entirely coincidental to her having forged his will, saying it was the consequence of his own self-neglect. 

However, on Friday a jury convicted her of murder. Her husband was convicted of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult and one count of fraud and perverting the course of justice. 

The jury heard how 59-year-old Mr Sootheran led a reclusive life, and Lynda Rickard took advantage of his vulnerabilities, isolating him and keeping family and friends at arm’s length.

Behind closed doors and out of sight of loved ones, Lynda Rickard was then able to deliberately deprive Anthony of food, drink, and medical care to the point that he starved to death.

Just 18 months after his mother died having suffered with dementia, the skeletal body of the father-of-one was discovered placed next to a plate of chocolate bars, a donut and a bag of McDonald’s that looked ‘fresher than him,’ a jury heard.

Carer Lynda Rickard, who deliberately starved her live-in landlord to death to inherit a slice of his multimillion-pound estate, was convicted of murder today after his skeletal body was found next to a plate of McDonald’s

Lynda Rickard and her husband Wayne moved into a Oxfordshire farmhouse set on 60 acres of land owned by James ‘Anthony’ Sootheran (pictured) in 2006

In his younger years, retired auctioneer clerk Mr Sootheran weighed 17 stone but when he was found dead, he weight just nine stone.  

On Friday, a jury convicted 62-year-old Lynda Rickard of murder and one count of fraud. 

She had previously admitted to two counts of forgery; four counts of fraud; perverting the course of justice; conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and possession of articles for use in frauds.

Wayne Rickard, 66, who had frequent contact with Mr Sootheran and would have been aware how seriously ill he was in the days before his death, failed to intervene and get him help.  

He was convicted of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult, one count of fraud and perverting the course of justice.

The Rickards, of Edinburgh Close, Banbury, Oxfordshire, were both remanded in custody ahead of their sentencing at Reading Crown Court on June 1. 

The 62-year-old cared for his aging mother Joy Sootheran (pictured) , but despite receiving £47,000 a year in her role, she soon started using the woman’s money as her own. Mother-of-three Lynda had previously admitted forging the will of Ms Sootheran, in an attempt to gain half of her £1.5million estate

Senior Crown Prosecutor Robbie Weber said: ‘While living rent-free with her husband at High Havens Farm, Lynda Rickard helped herself to tens of thousands of pounds of the Sootherans’ money. 

But that wasn’t enough. As we have proved, she was prepared to go as far as deliberately starving Anthony to death so she could inherit a significant amount of his fortune.

‘Lynda Rickard has consistently attempted to cover her tracks with a web of lies fed to friends, family, emergency service workers and financial professionals.

‘We are pleased the jury has convicted the Rickards of their crimes, in what we understand is a landmark case, and we hope that this brings some sense of justice to Joy and Anthony Sootheran’s loved ones.’

Standing alongside the Rickards in the dock were 51-year-old Shanda Robinson, Denise Neal, 41, and 49-year-old Michael Dunkley who were alleged to have become ’embroiled in the dishonesty.’ 

Robinson, of Banbury, Oxfordshire, was convicted of fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on Friday.

Neal, of Lower Tysoe, Warwickshire and Dunkley, also of Banbury, were both convicted of fraud on Friday. 

The jury heard how 59-year-old Mr Sootheran led a reclusive life, and Lynda Rickard took advantage of his vulnerabilities, isolating him and keeping family and friends at arm’s length. Pictured: Mr Sootheran’s property, High Havens farm, in Oxfordshire

Behind closed doors and out of sight of loved ones, Lynda Rickard was then able to deliberately deprive Mr Sootheran of food, drink, and medical care to the point that he starved to death

Just 18 months after his mother died having suffered with dementia, the skeletal body of the father-of-one was discovered placed next to a plate of chocolate bars, a donut and a bag of McDonald’s that looked ‘fresher than him,’ a jury heard. Pictured: Mr Sootheran’s bedroom

Meanwhile, 78-year-old June Alsford had previously admitted to fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice ahead of the trial.

To bring the case to court, the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed more than 20,000 pages of evidence, submitted detailed medical, financial and handwriting evidence, and relied on the accounts of several hundred witnesses.

Medical evidence played a vital part in proving that Mr Sootheran had been severely neglected in the weeks leading to his death, and that he had starved to death.

Robbie explained: ‘Medical experts confirmed that, in the weeks before his death, Anthony would have been immobile and therefore totally reliant on Lynda Rickard for food, drink and sanitation. 

Wayne Rickard, 66, who had frequent contact with Mr Sootheran and would have been aware how seriously ill he was in the days before his death, failed to intervene and get him help

‘But she deliberately neglected him, and his health rapidly declined.

‘She made no attempt to get help for him in the last days of his life when medical treatment would have saved his life. 

‘This is because, having forged his will, she needed him to die so that she could claim their inheritance for her family.

‘In the case of Wayne Rickard, we were able to prove he played a part in Anthony’s death, because despite living in the same house as Anthony, he failed to take steps to protect him when it would have been obvious that his wife was putting his life at risk.’

Ahead of the trial, Lynda Rickard admitted to several charges relating to her use of the Sootherans’ money as well as forged wills and tenancy agreements, after evidence considered by financial and handwriting experts revealed the extent of her lengthy campaign of fraud while living at High Haven Farm.

Her friend, June Alsford, admitted to fraudulently signing the wills Mrs Rickard had forged and trying to pass them off as genuine, charges which the jury found another friend Shanda Robinson guilty of at trial. 

Two further friends, Michael Dunkley and Denise Neal were also convicted for fraudulently signing the forged wills.

In addition, the jury convicted both Lynda and Wayne Rickard for fraudulently using Joy Sootheran’s money to buy a Mitsubishi Shogun worth around £30,000, and Wayne Rickard of perverting the course of justice. 

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