Banbury forged will accused 'did not see millionaire sign'

image copyrightTVP
image captionAnthony Sootheran died after being "deprived of food and drink", the court previously heard

A man who witnessed the will of a millionaire who was allegedly murdered for his money has said he had no reason to know it was a forgery.

Michael Dunkley, 49, witnessed the document in the name of Anthony Sootheran, who was found dead at his home in Oxfordshire in March 2014.

The fake will's creator and one of its beneficiaries, Lynda Rickard, 62, denies murdering her wealthy landlord.

Mr Dunkley, who denies fraud, said he did not see Mr Sootheran sign the will.

image captionMichael Dunkley is accused of fraudulently witnessing a forged will in the millionaire's name

Mrs Rickard admits forging wills in the names of both Mr Sootheran, 59, and his mother, Joy, as well as spending tens of thousands of pounds of their money, the jury has heard.

She murdered the reclusive and vulnerable millionaire by depriving him of food and medical care, prosecutors have claimed.

Her husband, Wayne Rickard, 66, who also denies murder, failed to intervene, the jury at Reading Crown Court has been told.

image captionLynda and Wayne Rickard are accused of murdering their wealthy landlord

Giving evidence, Mr Dunkley, from Banbury, said he did not see the millionaire sign the will at a meeting in February 2014.

The security worker said: "I didn't see pen-strokes. He bent over it and the document moved. Then he pushed it over to me.

"At the time I signed it, I didn't know it was a will. I didn't look at it, I looked at where I needed to sign."

image copyrightTVP
image captionJoy Sootheran's will was forged by Mrs Rickard

Mr Dunkley later cited the document in a failed attempt to rent one of Mr Sootheran's cottages cheaply, prosecutors said.

The defendant said the millionaire had agreed to rent him the cottage for £200 a month in return for doing some work.

Mr Sootheran's body was found at High Havens Farm near South Newington, Oxfordshire.

The Rickards, from Banbury, were his live-in tenants at the time, the jury has heard.

As alternatives to the murder charge, Mrs Rickard denies gross negligence manslaughter, while her husband denies causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult.

They both deny fraudulently using Mr Sootheran's money to buy a Mitsubishi Shogun car.

Three of Mrs Rickard's friends - Mr Dunkley, Denise Neal, 41, of Lower Tysoe, Warwickshire and Shanda Robinson, 51, from Banbury - deny fraudulently signing wills. However, another friend, June Alsford, 78, from Aynho, Northamptonshire, has admitted the charge.

Mr Rickard denies perverting the course of justice by attempting to pass off a will as genuine while Ms Robinson denies conspiring to do the same.

The trial continues.

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