Banbury woman guilty of murder after depriving her landlord of food, drink and medical care

Lynda Rickard will be sentence on Tuesday, June 1

Friday, 28th May 2021, 1:39 pm
Updated Friday, 28th May 2021, 1:40 pm

Following an extensive and lengthy investigation, a woman has been convicted of the murder and defrauding of a man in South Newington, near Banbury.

Lynda Rickard, aged 62, of Edinburgh Close, Banbury, was today (Friday, May 28) convicted of the murder of her live-in landlord James Anthony Sootheran, known as Anthony.

Anthony Sootheran was controlled, isolated, and defrauded before tragically dying at High Havens Farm, South Newington, with Lynda Rickard’s intention being to inherit Anthony’s valuable estate which was valued at approximately £3.5 million.

Lynda Rickard

Lynda Rickard was on trial with her husband Wayne at Reading Crown Court, both accused of Mr Sootheran’s murder.

Following the seven week trial, Lynda Rickard was today found guilty of murder.

Her husband, Wayne Rickard, aged 66, also of Edinburgh Close in Banbury, was cleared of murder but convicted of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult.

Anthony Sootheran was found dead at the family owned farm, where he lived with the Rickards, on 18 March 2014, aged 59.

Wayne Rickard

Both Rickards also faced trial for a count each of fraud, in that they used money belonging to Joy Sootheran, Anthony’s mother, to purchase a Mitsubishi Shogun vehicle in 2010, valued at just over £33,000. Both were also found guilty of this charge.

Wayne Rickard was also convicted of a count of perverting the court of justice, regarding fraudulent statements about Anthony’s forged will.

Lynda Rickard had previously pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud, two counts of forgery, and a count each of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, perverting the course of justice, and possession of articles for use in fraud.

These charges relate to Lynda Rickard fraudulently accessing the bank accounts of Anthony and Joy Sootheran and using their money as her own. This money was obtained and spent both before and after Anthony and Joy had died, and largely used to fund the Rickard’s family lifestyle.

Mr Sootheran

The charges also relate to Lynda Rickard forging the wills of both Anthony and Joy in order to benefit from their valuable estates, providing false documents/statements in relation to their wills, and also having in her possession forged tenancy agreements for High Havens Farm.

Three other defendants also stood trial with the Rickards for their part in fraudulent activity relating to the forging of Anthony and Joy’s wills.

Denise Neal, aged 41, of Radway Road, Lower Tysoe in Warwickshire, Michael Dunkey, aged 49, of Portland Road, Milcombe, and Shanda Robinson, aged 51, of Sage Close in Banbury each faced a count of fraud. Robinson also faced a count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Neal and Dunkley were both found guilty of fraud, while Robinson was convicted of fraud and perverting the course of public justice.

A sixth defendant, June Alsford, aged 78, of Little Lane, Aynho in Northamptonshire had previously pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice.

In the time prior to his death, Anthony Sootheran was deliberately isolated from his family and loved ones by Lynda Rickard. In the last weeks of his life Anthony was immobile and bed bound at the farm and he was deprived of food, drink and medical care that the court heard would have saved his life.

This all took place at a time when Anthony was entirely reliant on Lynda Rickard for care. She had previously been a paid carer for Anthony’s mother, Mary Joy Sootheran, known as Joy, at the farm before her death in 2012.

Anthony and Joy had moved into High Havens Farm in 2008 to live with the Rickards, who were living there as tenants on a rental agreement with Anthony.

All defendants will be sentenced on Tuesday June 1.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard, of the Major Crime Unit said:

“I am pleased that the jury have reached these verdicts and that Lynda and Wayne Rickard, Shanda Robinson, Denise Neal and Michael Dunkley have been convicted of these wicked crimes.

“The circumstances of Anthony’s death are truly shocking and the evidence has established that the actions of Lynda and Wayne Rickard were particularly callous and the result of a calculated plan that they developed over a period of years.

“They exploited Anthony and Joy in the most extreme way possible at a time when they were at their most vulnerable. At a time when they knew that Anthony was immobile and bed bound and that he needed urgent medical care, Lynda Rickard deliberately withheld food, drink and failed to seek medical assistance that the court heard would have saved his life. Wayne Rickard deliberately chose not to act and assist Anthony, knowing that in doing so he would have ruined his wife’s plans.

“These verdicts reflect the hard work of the prosecution team and the Rickards now face the prospect of significant prison sentences as a result.

“This has been a long and complex investigation, and I would like to pay tribute to the Sootheran family, who have acted with incredible dignity, and shown remarkable patience and support for the investigation. Our thoughts remain with them.

“The tragic death of Anthony, and the defrauding of him and his mother Joy, demonstrate the ways in which victims can sadly be targeted and taken advantage of due to their vulnerabilities.

“Anyone who has concerns about someone they know, who may be at risk of financial exploitation is urged to report it to the police by calling 101 so that it can be investigated and safeguarding steps can be taken.”