Carer found guilty of starving vulnerable landlord to death
A carer who deliberately starved a vulnerable man to death to benefit from his multimillion-pound estate has been found guilty of his murder.
This is understood to be the first time in more than a century that a successful prosecution for murder by deliberate starvation has been made.
Lynda Rickard, 62, and her husband, Wayne Rickard, 66, moved into Anthony Sootheran’s Oxfordshire farmhouse in 2006, where Lynda Rickard cared for his aging mother, Joy Sootheran. Despite receiving £47,000 a year in her caring role, she soon started using Joy’s money as her own and forged her will so that her family stood to share the bulk of Joy’s estate with Anthony.
When issues arose regarding the validity of Joy’s will after her death, Lynda Rickard turned to forging Anthony’s will so that she would benefit from his fortune.
Anthony, who often found life difficult, led a somewhat reclusive life, and Lynda Rickard took advantage of his vulnerabilities, isolating him and keeping family and friends at arm’s length.
Behind closed doors and out of sight of loved ones, Lynda Rickard was then able to deliberately deprive Anthony of food, drink, and medical care to the point that he starved to death in March 2014.
Wayne Rickard, who had frequent contact with Anthony and would have been aware how seriously ill he was in the days before his death, failed to intervene and get him help. Today, the jury convicted him of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Robbie Weber for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “While living rent-free with her husband at High Havens Farm, Lynda Rickard helped herself to tens of thousands of pounds of the Sootherans’ money. But that wasn’t enough. As we have proved, she was prepared to go as far as deliberately starving Anthony to death so she could inherit a significant amount of his fortune.
“Lynda Rickard has consistently attempted to cover her tracks with a web of lies fed to friends, family, emergency service workers and financial professionals.
“We are pleased the jury has convicted the Rickards of their crimes, in what we understand is a landmark case, and we hope that this brings some sense of justice to Joy and Anthony Sootheran’s loved ones.”
How the case was proved
To bring the case to court, the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed more than 20,000 pages of evidence, submitted detailed medical, financial and handwriting evidence, and relied on the accounts of several hundred witnesses.
Medical evidence played a vital part in proving that Anthony Sootheran had been severely neglected in the weeks leading to his death, and that he had starved to death.
Robbie explained: “Medical experts confirmed that, in the weeks before his death, Anthony would have been immobile and therefore totally reliant on Lynda Rickard for food, drink and sanitation. But she deliberately neglected him, and his health rapidly declined.
“She made no attempt to get help for him in the last days of his life when medical treatment would have saved his life. This is because, having forged his will, she needed him to die so that she could claim their inheritance for her family.
Robbie added: "In the case of Wayne Rickard, we were able to prove he played a part in Anthony’s death, because despite living in the same house as Anthony, he failed to take steps to protect him when it would have been obvious that his wife was putting his life at risk.”
Ahead of the trial, Lynda Rickard admitted to several charges relating to her use of the Sootherans’ money as well as forged wills and tenancy agreements, after evidence considered by financial and handwriting experts revealed the extent of her lengthy campaign of fraud while living at High Havens Farm. Her friend, June Alsford, pleaded guilty to fraudulently signing the wills Mrs Rickard had forged and trying to pass them off as genuine, charges which the jury found another friend, Shanda Robinson, guilty of at trial. Two further friends, Michael Dunkley and Denise Neal, were also convicted of fraudulently signing the forged wills.
In addition, the jury convicted both Lynda and Wayne Rickard for fraudulently using Joy Sootheran’s money to buy a Mitsubishi Shogun, worth around £30,000, and Wayne Rickard of perverting the course of justice.
Notes to editors
- Robbie Weber is a Senior Crown Prosecutor in the Complex Casework Unit at CPS Thames and Chiltern
- Lynda Rickard (DOB: 08.09.1958) was convicted on 28 May at Reading Crown Court of:
- one count of murder
- one count of fraud
- She had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery, four counts of fraud, one count of perverting the course of justice, one count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and one count of possession of articles for use in frauds (20 January 2020 at Reading Crown Court)
- Wayne Rickard (DOB: 21.02.1955) was convicted on 28 May at Reading Crown Court of:
- one count of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult
- one count of fraud
- one count of perverting the course of justice
- Michael Dunkley (DOB: 28.11.1971) was convicted of one count of fraud on 28 May at Reading Crown Court
- Shanda Robinson (DOB: 19.08.1969) was convicted of one count of fraud and one count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on 28 May at Reading Crown Court
- Denise Neal (DOB: 07.02.1980) was convicted of one count of fraud on 28 May at Reading Crown Court
- June Alsford (DOB: 19.06.1942) pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and one count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice ahead of the trial
- Lynda and Wayne Rickard have both been remanded in custody
- The defendants will be sentenced on 1 June at Reading Crown Court