Banbury woman who starved her millionaire landlord to death is jailed for murder
Lynda Rickard deprived her landlord of food, drink and medical care
Lynda Rickard, aged 62, of Edinburgh Close, Banbury, has today - June 1 - been given a life sentence and told she and will serve a minimum of 28 years in jail after being convicted of the murder of her live-in landlord James Anthony Sootheran, known as Anthony at High Havens Farm, South Newington.
Anthony Sootheran was controlled, isolated, and defrauded before tragically dying, with Lynda Rickard’s intention being to inherit Anthony’s valuable estate which was valued at approximately £3.5 million.
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 found guilty of murder on Friday May 28
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. He was today jailed for 10-and-a-half years.
It was at this time that the Sootheran’s began to pay Lynda Rickard £47 000 a year to provide care to Joy who was elderly and in failing health. In return for Lynda providing food and laundry for Anthony, he agreed that the Rickard’s could live at the farm rent-free.
However unbeknown to both Anthony and Joy, Lynda Rickard was defrauding both of them by accessing their bank accounts and spending their money, and also forging their wills to her and Wayne’s benefit. This activity took place both before and after Joy’s death in 2012 and Anthony’s death in 2014.
As well as convicting the Rickard’s of Anthony’s unlawful killing the jury also found them both guilty of fraud relating to the purchase of a £33,000 Mitsubishi Shogun vehicle with Joy’s money in 2010.
Lynda Rickard had already pleaded guilty to a number of offences in January 2020 including 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 related to the forging of Anthony and Joy’s wills, trying to pass the wills off as genuine in court proceedings, fraudulently spending their money, and also fraudulent tenancy agreements for High Havens Farm.
Three other defendants involved in the trial were also convicted for their roles in the callous defrauding of Anthony and Joy.
Denise Neal, aged 41, of Radway Road, Lower Tysoe in Warwickshire, and Michael Dunkey, aged 49, of Portland Road, Milcombe, were both found guilty of one count of fraud relating to Anthony’s forged will.
Shanda Robinson, aged 51, of Sage Close in Banbury was convicted of one count of fraud and perverting the course of public justice relating to Joy’s forged will and trying to pass it off as genuine in court proceedings.
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 relating to Joy’s forged will.
Denise Neal was sentenced to two years’ and three months’ imprisonment.
Shanda Robinson was sentenced to two years’ and eight months’ imprisonment.
Michael Dunkley was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and June Alsford was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment suspended for two years.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard, of the Major Crime Unit, said: “I would first like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to Anthony’s family, and particularly his daughter Hannah, who have had to wait seven years for the awful truth to be established regarding how Anthony died, and for those responsible for his death to be brought to justice.
“I cannot even begin to imagine what Anthony’s family have been through during this time. Their dignity and patience have been remarkable; and on behalf of the prosecution team I would like to thank them for their unwavering support over the last seven years, and in particular in the last four years, since they became aware that Anthony’s death was being investigated as a potential homicide.
“I have been a police officer for almost 22 years and this is the most cruel and wicked set of circumstances that I have dealt with regarding the killing of one human being by another.
“I find it difficult to conceive how one human being can starve another human being to death whilst living under the same roof a matter of feet away.
“The fact that Anthony was killed by the actions of somebody who purported to care for him is shocking enough. However the fact that this was carried out in his own home by Lynda Rickard, who had assumed the property as her own; whilst she systematically stole thousands of pounds from Anthony and his mother Joy; and whilst she attempted to defraud the valuable Sootheran estate is simply horrific and demonstrates the cruel, deliberate and calculated plan that was developed and executed over a number of years.
“While Lynda Rickard carried out the murder of Anthony by depriving him of food, water and medical care, her husband Wayne knew exactly what she was doing, and simply allowed it to happen.
“An example of Lynda’s deliberate actions in blatantly ignoring Anthony’s obvious health concerns came just a month before he died. In February 2014, she dialled 111 and explained that Anthony had fallen. After being advised to either take Anthony to hospital or to call back if she was unable to get him there, Lynda Rickard ignored both pieces of advice. From this moment it is apparent that Anthony was immobile, unable to care for himself and was entirely reliant on Lynda for survival.
“Not only this, but she also deliberately blocked numerous visiting efforts by medical professionals, along with preventing Anthony’s friends and family from seeing him. This would have only heightened Anthony’s feelings of loneliness. A truly cruel action to take against someone who was already vulnerable.
“Lynda and Wayne Rickard exploited Anthony and Joy in the most callous way possible. Anthony’s vulnerabilities were well known and Lynda Rickard manipulated them to conceal her crimes from the eyes of others and to minimise the risk of professionals and those closest to Anthony recognising exactly what she was doing.
“This enabled them to feed their greed for a number of years.
“Even Anthony’s death was not enough to curb the Rickard’s greed and thousands of pounds was stolen from his accounts after March 2014.
“The Rickards wanted it all, and ultimately it was their greed that was their undoing.
“In order to develop her plan Lynda Rickard used her own friends to forge both Joy and Anthony’s wills and other tenancy documents. Shanda Robinson, Denise Neal and Michael Dunkley and June Alsford all knowingly played their part in this plan and have been sentenced for their actions.
“This conviction is understood to have made legal history by it being the first time that a murder conviction has related to the deliberate starvation of an adult victim.
“The sentences handed down to Lynda and Wayne Rickard today properly reflect the true horror of their actions and I hope that Anthony’s family and friends will see these sentences as justice for him, even though they will in no way atone for the suffering that he had to endure.
“Anthony and Joy were targeted due to their wealth, and this case demonstrates the real risk of financial exploitation that vulnerable members of society can face. If anybody has concerns that somebody they know may be at risk of financial exploitation I urge them to report it to the police so that the matter can be investigated and steps to safeguard can be taken.”