Millionaire ‘found dead next to chocolate bars, doughnut and McDonald’s after carer starved him to inherit fortune’

James “Anthony” Sootheran, 59, had been held captive in a “foul, unhygienic cell” and was found starved to death, Reading Crown Court was told.

The wealthy landlord’s frail body was discovered in his bedroom on March 18, 2014 weighing just nine stone, around half his former weight.

A horrified doctor found Mr Sootheran’s body next to a plate of chocolate bars, a doughnut and a bag of McDonald’s that looked “fresher than him,” the jury was told.

Lynda and Wayne Rickard, who deny murder, had moved into Mr Sootheran’s farmhouse South Newington, Oxfordsnhire, in 2006.

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

Dr Hilary Edwards made the grim discovery at High Havens Farm after Lynda Rickard told the GP she had not seen Mr Sootheran since the previous morning.

Prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC said: “They entered the address and both went upstairs to Anthony’s room. The smell was terrible. Lynda Rickard made a play of knocking loudly but there was no response.

“They both entered and there they found Anthony, severely emaciated and dead. He was lying, naked from the waist down, on a mattress on the floor with a stained duvet over him.”

Mr Saxby said: “One police officer has a vague memory of there being a bucket in the room used as a toilet. The blanket was wet, the room smelled of urine and it was freezing cold.

“And the food, as you have seen it in the footage, looked fresh – fresher than Anthony, as one of the officers put it. Indeed, it seemed almost as if it had been placed there after his death.”

Just six months before his body was discovered, Mr Sootheran’s cousin Richard Stubbs visited him at the farm and was “horrified” at what he witnessed.

Mr Saxby, said: “Both Anthony and his room were in a terrible state. He was thin and frail. 

“In the corner, there was a pile of Anthony’s hair. There was no television in the room. There were no books, or magazines. In short, it was a cell. A foul, unhygienic, cell.”

Mr Sootheran told Mr Stubbs that he never left his room and had last seen Lynda Rickard the previous evening, meaning he had not eaten or drunk that day, a jury heard.

“Anthony said he was worried about upsetting Lynda Rickard and scared of being evicted and placed in a mental health institution. He was totally dependent on Lynda Rickard and she was failing to feed him or take any care to ensure he had safe, clean living conditions,” the prosecuting counsel added.

Lynda Rickard of Banbury, Oxon, denies murder, gross negligence manslaughter, fraud, and two counts of perverting the course of justice.

Wayne Rickard, 66, denies murder and was also charged with causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult, fraud, and perverting the course of justice.