Friday, January 24, 2020

Couple 'starved man to death so they could inherit part of his £3.5m estate'

A "vulnerable" man was starved to death by a carer who wanted to inherit part of his £3.5milestate, a court has heard.

James Anthony Sootheran, 59, was found dead in his bedroom at High Havens Farm in South Newington, Oxfordshire, on March 18 2014.

Now Lynda Rickard, 61, and her husband Wayne, 64 - who both lived with Mr Sootheran - are charged with his murder.

Three other suspects, Michael Dunkley, 48, Denise Neal, 39, and Shanda Robinson, 50, are on trial for fraud.

All five defendants deny the charges against them.

Prosecutor Oliver Saxby told a jury at Reading Crown Court that the case involved "casual, opportunistic greed" that developed into "something utterly routine and brazen".

He said the alleged victims in the case, Mr Sootheran and his mother Mary Joy Sootheran, who suffered from dementia prior to her death aged 92 in August 2012, were reliant on Mrs Rickard for care, but were ultimately "exploited" by her.

"She was eyeing a windfall," Mr Saxby said.

"That windfall came to be dependent on Anthony Sootheran's death. And she got impatient, and worried that the windfall might elude her."

The court heard that Mr Sootheran, who owned High Havens Farm, had "complex" mental health issues and was a recluse who was prone to self-neglect.

His mental health gave Mrs Rickard "the perfect cover for precipitating his death", Mr Saxby said.

"She achieved (this) by isolating him, utterly neglecting him, failing to obtain appropriate medical care for him and ultimately, depriving him of food and drink.

"In the simplest of terms, assisted by her husband, she starved him to death, thereby securing for herself and her family the windfall she craved."

He said Mrs Rickard had already admitted forging the wills of Mr Sootheran and his mother.

The forged wills entitled Mrs Rickard to half of Mrs Sootheran's estate, valued at just under £1.5 million, and a third of Mr Sootheran's, worth about £3.5 million, the court heard.

The jury was told Mrs Rickard had also pleaded guilty to four fraud charges, two counts of forgery, two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and possession of articles for use in fraud.

Mrs Rickard is further charged with the manslaughter of Mr Sootheran through gross negligence, while Mr Rickard, 64, is accused of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult.

Mrs Rickard also denies a charge of fraud, in that she allegedly abused her position as carer for Mr Sootheran by allegedly using his money for her own purposes.

They are also both accused of a single count of fraud by false representation relating to Mrs Sootheran.

They deny all of the charges against them.