Oxford

Woman 'stole £133,000 from starving man' in Banbury

Anthony Sootheran Image copyright TVP
Image caption Anthony Sootheran was kind but a "recluse prone to self-neglect", the court heard

A man who died in a freezing cold room that smelt of urine had up to £133,000 stolen from his accounts, a court has heard.

Anthony Sootheran, 59, was found dead by a doctor in March 2014 at his home near Banbury, Oxfordshire.

Wayne and Lynda Rickard, of Edinburgh Close, Banbury, deny his murder.

Reading Crown Court heard Mr Sootheran, who was more than 6ft tall, weighed nine stone when he died and had "long-standing malnutrition".

Jurors were shown a police officer's bodycam footage that showed Mr Sootheran's body on a mattress on the floor.

Prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC said the room was "freezing cold" and "smelt of urine" and that a blanket covering Mr Sootheran was wet.

He had long-standing mental health problems and an estate worth about £3.5m, the court heard.

Image caption Lynda and Wayne Rickard are accused of the murder of Mr Sootheran

The Rickards lived with Mr Sootheran on a farm he owned in South Newington, near Banbury, but were evicted by court order in 2017, the court heard.

Mrs Rickard has already admitted she forged Mr Sootheran's will and stole money from his accounts.

Mr Saxby said a forensic accountant had found that she stole between £39,000 and £133,000 until 2015.

He added Mr Sootheran's malnutrition would have been "obvious" to anyone who had seen him in the weeks before his death.

"Had he been referred for medical treatment as late as the three or four days prior to his death, he would have survived," Mr Saxby said.

Mrs Rickard has also admitted forging the will of Mr Sootheran's mother Joy and stealing money from her.

Mrs Sootheran's estate was worth about £1.5m when she died in 2012, aged 91.

Image caption Mr Sootheran bought High Havens Farm, where the Rickards lived from 2006

Mrs Rickard and her husband deny a fraud in which they bought a Mitsubishi Shogun 4x4 with about £30,000 of Mrs Sootheran's money.

The court was told that in March 2018 Mrs Rickard admitted dishonestly claiming more than £14,500 in housing benefit between December 2014 and November 2016.

In the course of that offence, she had sent an email pretending to be Mr Sootheran, months after his death, the jury heard.

That was a "reflection, perhaps of her greed and persistence - even desperation," Mr Saxby said.

He added: "Anthony was dead, but she was not inheriting because there were problems with the will, and so she resorted to more dishonesty to obtain money."

Three other people are also on trial for being witnesses to the Sootheran wills.

Michael Dunkley, 48, of Brickle Lane in Bloxham, and Denise Neal, 39, of Radway Road in Lower Tysoe, are accused of fraud.

Shanda Robinson, 50, of Sage Close in Banbury, is accused of fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

June Alsford, 77, of Little Lane in Aynho, has admitted fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The trial continues.

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