Anthony Sootheran murder: Woman who starved millionaire to death jailed

Image source, Thames Valley Police
Image caption,
Anthony Sootheran's death was initially not treated as suspicious

A woman who starved her millionaire landlord to death in order to inherit part of his £3.5m estate has been jailed for a minimum of 28 years.

Lynda Rickard, 62, was convicted of murdering 59-year-old Anthony Sootheran who died at his farm near South Newington, Oxfordshire, in 2014.

Rickard's husband Wayne, 66, who was found guilty of allowing the death, was jailed for 10-and-a-half years.

The judge, Mr Justice Wall, said she had shown "extraordinary greed".

The Rickards, from Banbury, were Mr Sootheran's live-in tenants at High Havens Farm.

Lynda Rickard "ruthlessly exploited" the reclusive millionaire and his mother, Joy Sootheran, who died in 2012, Reading Crown Court previously heard.

She took up to £300,000 from their accounts, forged both of their wills and isolated her vulnerable landlord by discouraging visitors, prosecutors said.

Image source, Thames Valley Police
Image caption,
Lynda and Wayne Rickard bought a Mitsubishi Shogun car with some of the money they obtained

Mr Sootheran's "severely emaciated" body was found in his room in March 2014.

A combination of malnutrition and a deep-seated pressure sore led to a fatal lung infection, the court heard.

The death, initially treated as non-suspicious, was reinvestigated when his bank account was used after he died, the judge was told.

The Rickards later went to court to try to uphold his forged will but failed to inherit any part of the Sootherans' estates, prosecutors said.

Image source, TVP
Image caption,
Joy Sootheran's will was also forged by Mrs Rickard

Mr Sootheran's daughter Hannah told the court she was "heartbroken" over the loss of her father.

In a written victim statement, she said: "My trust in people has deteriorated significantly.

"I cannot comprehend how someone who said she cared deeply for my dad left him to die in such horrible conditions."

Image source, Thames Valley Police
Image caption,
Mr Sootheran lived with the Rickards at High Havens Farm

Mary Loram QC, defending Lynda Rickard, said her client felt "profound shame" and had not spent the Sootherans' money on "high living".

The defendant previously admitted forging their wills, four counts of fraud over their bank accounts, two counts of conspiring to pervert the course of justice, one of possessing forged documents and one of housing benefit fraud.

She and her husband were convicted by the jury of fraud over the purchase of a Mitsubishi Shogun car.

Image caption,
(Left to right) Denise Neal, Shanda Robinson and Michael Dunkley were all found guilty of fraudulently signing forged wills

Passing a life sentence, Mr Justice Wall said Mrs Rickard had "cynically and systematically bled this family of money".

He told her: "Your greed was such that when you thought Anthony Sootheran might act in a way which would derail your gravy train, you murdered him."

The judge said Wayne Rickard, who was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice, "hoped to profit" from Mr Sootheran's death.

He told him: "You were the only person who could have saved Anthony Sootheran but instead... you left him to die the most horrible of deaths."

Michael Dunkley, 49, from Banbury, and Denise Neal, 41, of Lower Tysoe, Warwickshire, were jailed for 24 months and 27 months respectively after being found guilty of fraudulently signing forged wills.

Shanda Robinson, 51, from Banbury, who was convicted of the same offence and conspiring to pervert the course of justice, was jailed for two years and eight months.

Another of Mrs Rickard's friends, June Alsford, 78, from Aynho, Northamptonshire, who admitted fraud before the trial, was given a two-year suspended sentence.

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