United Kingdom

Millionaire's daughter turned away by carer before her father's starved body was found, trial hears

The daughter of a millionaire landlord was turned away by his carer when she arrived with a Christmas gift three months before he was found starved to death, a murder trial heard today. 

The skeleton body of James 'Anthony' Sootheran, 59, who once weighed 17 stone, was found in March 2014 at his farm in South Newington, Oxfordshire. 

Lynda, 62, and her husband Wayne Rickard, 66, were arrested and jointly charged with murdering the retired auctioneer's clerk.  

Mr Sootheran, a divorced father-of-one, had been sectioned for mental health problems and was 'prone to gross self-neglect', prosecuting Oliver Saxby QC had previously told the court. 

His mental health gave Mrs Rickard 'the perfect cover for precipitating his death', he added.

A jury heard today how Hannah Sootheran, 31, had been banished from her father's home in December 2013 under the pretence that Anthony did not want to see her. 

Carer Lynda, 62, and her husband Wayne Rickard (both pictured outside Reading Crown Court in 2020), 66, were arrested and jointly charged with murdering the retired auctioneer's clerk

The skeleton body of James 'Anthony' Sootheran (above), 59, who once weighed 17 stone, was found in March 2014 at his farm in South Newington, Oxfordshire

On what would have been the last time she saw her father alive, the daughter left the property in tears before receiving a phone call. 

Standing behind a screen in the witness box today, Hannah Sootheran told the jury: 'Lynda was a bit cagey, she did not know I was going to be there, I had organised it with my dad the week before.

'I went into the downstairs hallway, she said my dad did not know I was coming and she said she would call him. She came downstairs to say that dad did not want to see me but I knew he did want to see me.

'I was upset. I had a belt to give to him. Me and my stepfather both got into the car, I was very tearful. We were almost home when I had a phone call from my dad. He asked me where I was and I said I was told he didn't want to see me.

'He said 'I do want to see you, I never said that.' I was very upset, I said we were nearly home, I said I cannot deal with this.'

Just three months later, Anthony's deceased frail body was found lying dead on his bedroom floor wrapped in a stained duvet. It weighed a meagre nine stone.

Sitting at Reading Crown Court, the jury heard how daughter Hannah had wanted to give her father a Christmas present on that final visit - a belt because his trousers were always falling down.

Wearing a black suit in the witness box, Mr Sootheran's ex-wife and the mother to Hannah, Dawn Hughes said: 'Hannah went to see him in December 2013. 

Lynda and Wayne Rickard had moved into a farmhouse (pictured) set on 60 acres of woodland owned by James 'Anthony' Sootheran in 2006

'She had arranged to see him to give him a Christmas present but Lynda said he was not very well and Hannah came away upset. He phoned her afterwards.

'She got him a belt to hold his trousers up because his trousers were always falling down.'

Lynda and Wayne Rickard had moved into a farmhouse set on 60 acres of woodland owned by Mr Sootheran in 2006 and planned to defraud his estate and the fortunes of his elderly mother Joy, the court earlier heard.

Lynda Rickard, aged 62, had previously admitted forging the will of pensioner Joy where she was set to gain half of her £1.5million estate. 

Similarly, she admitted forging the will of the OAP's only son Anthony - where she would inherit a third of his £3.5million fortune when he died.

Lynda and Wayne Rickard planned to defraud Mr Sootheran of his estate and the fortunes of his elderly mother Joy, the court earlier heard

The couple categorically deny murdering for financial gain.

In addition to murder, Lynda, of Banbury, Oxfordshire, also denies gross negligence manslaughter; fraud; and two counts of perverting the course of justice.

American Wayne Rickard, 66, 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. He also denies murder.

Michael Dunkley, 49 of Bloxham, near Banbury, stood charged with fraud in relation to the forged will of Mr Sootheran alongside 41-year-old Denise Neal, Lower Tysoe, Warwickshire.

Shanda Robinson, 51, denied fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

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