A "GREEDY" couple allegedly starved their live-in landlord to death in order to steal part of his £3.5million estate after forging his will, a jury heard today.
Lynda and Wayne Rickard moved into a multi-million pound farmhouse owned by James “Anthony” Sootheran in 2006 and planned to plunder his estate, Reading Crown Court heard.
Mother-of-three Lynda Rickard, 62, had previously admitted forging the will of his elderly mother Joy – where she was set to gain half of her almost £1.5million estate.
Similarly, she confessed to forging the will of the pensioner's only son Anthony, who had complex mental health needs, where she stood to inherit a third of his £3.5million estate when he died.
Prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC told the jury: "This is a case about greed. Casual, opportunistic greed.
"In simple terms, assisted by her husband, Lynda Rickard starved Anthony Sootheran to death. Thereby satisfying her greed and securing for herself and her family the windfall she craved.
"In short, for their own gain, they killed him – by isolating him, neglecting him, failing to obtain appropriate medical help for him and depriving him of food and drink," said the prosecutor.
The husband and wife categorically denied murdering their live-in landlord for financial gain today, but claimed his death was "entirely coincidental" to Mrs Rickard having forged his will.
It was the consequence of his own self-neglect, their defence counsel will claim.
However, the jury heard that "controlling" Lynda found the perfect cover in 59-year-old Anthony.
Standing in Reading Crown Court, the prosecutor said: "Anthony Sootheran was someone with complex mental health issues. A recluse, prone to gross self-neglect.
"Which of course gave Lynda Rickard the perfect cover for precipitating his death, for setting him on a trajectory to die – something she was able to achieve – behind closed doors – by isolating him, by utterly neglecting him, by failing to obtain appropriate medical care for him, by on occasion preventing medical assessments from taking place, by controlling him and his life and, ultimately, by depriving him of food and drink."
Today, the jury of six men and seven women were warned of the distressing images they will witness over the course of the three month trial of skeleton Anthony lying dead with a “particularly nasty bed sore.”
Mr Saxby QC said: “They show him lying dead, in his room at the house he shared with the Rickards – as he was found by a doctor who popped in to see how he was.”
The court heard that Mr and Mrs Rickard moved into High Havens farmhouse in the village of South Newington, Oxfordshire, owned by Anthony in late 2006 with the deal being Lynda would become a carer for elderly Joy.
Lynda cared for the dementia suffering 92-year-old until her death in August 2012, and the couple continued to care for Mr Sootheran.
But when a doctor called at the farm on March 18 2014, she discovered Mr Sootheran dead in his bed with sores.
Lynda later admitted abusing her position as a carer to dishonestly use Joy’s money as her own, stealing between £50,000 and £167,000 for her own purposes.
The blonde-haired defendant had previously admitted using Anthony’s money at the value of between £40,000 and £133,000 for personal gain.
'FRIENDS BECAME EMBROILED IN HER DISHONESTY'
In total, the Rickards were set to gain almost £3.5million considering the estimated £300,000 stolen from both of the Sootheran’s accounts; half of Joy’s will; a third of Mr Sootheran’s estate and the sale of High Haven’s farm which sold for £1.8million in 2018.
Standing alongside the Rickards in the dock today were friends Shanda Robinson, Denise Neal and 49-year-old Michael Dunkley, who were all alleged to have become "embroiled in her dishonesty."
Mr Saxby QC said: "Shanda Robinson and Lynda Rickard were close, Denise Neal helped Lynda Rickard look after Joy Sootheran at High Havens Farm, and the Rickards are godparents to Michael Dunkley’s son."
The signing of pensioner Joy Sootheran’s forged will was witnessed by two signatories, 78-year-old June Alsford, who previously admitted signed the will knowing it was not genuine; and defendant 51-year-old Shanda Robinson who categorically denied fraud and perverting the course of justice today.
Friends, 41-year-old Denise Neal and Michael Dunkley denied they signed Anthony’s forged will knowing that it was not genuine.
Mr Saxby QC said: "There was this will. Anthony’s will. And the prospect of a windfall. But Anthony needed to die.
"That, with a view to securing this inheritance and with Wayne Rickard’s assistance, Lynda Rickard precipitated Anthony Sootheran’s death.
"Lynda Rickard says that Anthony Sootheran’s demise was a consequence of how he chose to live his life and that his death was entirely coincidental to her having forged his will.
"Good timing, as it were. Instead, she did everything she could to help him and was devastated by his death – he being someone, she says, who she cared for deeply.
"Albeit as her guilty pleas show, this did not stop her using his money as her own or forging his will."
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, 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.
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 hearing at Reading Crown Court continues.
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