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Horrified doctor found body of her 'grossly thin' millionaire patient, 59 ....


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Horrified doctor found body of her 'grossly thin' millionaire patient, 59, next to a doughnut in unusually tidy room at his 1.8m farmhouse, murder trial hears

    Lynda Rickard, 60, and husband Wayne, 64, accused of murder and fraud 
    Dr Hilary Edwards found James Anthony Sootheran weighing just nine stone
    Mr Sootheran was kept in 'appalling conditions surrounded by mouse droppings'

By Isabella Nikolic For Mailonline

Published: 16:53, 26 April 2021 | Updated: 17:00, 26 April 2021

A doctor was left horrified after finding the body of her 'grossly thin' millionaire patient next to a doughnut in an unusually tidy room at his 1.8million farmhouse, a murder trial has heard.   Lynda Rickard, 60, and her husband Wayne, 64, isolated their friend James 'Anthony' Sootheran in his remote home and starved him to death in order to inherit a slice of his wealthy estate in South Newington, Oxfordshire, a prosecutor alleged today.  General practitioner Dr Hilary Edwards discovered the body of the frail father-of-one on March 18, 2014, after she decided to check on him at his home.  Retired auctioneer's clerk Mr Sootheran weighed 17 stone in his younger years but when he was found dead his severely malnourished body weighed a meagre nine stone.  Now retired, Dr Edwards had been a general practitioner at the Bloxham surgery near Banbury for 35 years, but had not seen Anthony for almost a year.  Describing her last visit before finding the 59-year-old's corpse, the doctor said today: 'I visited him at the farm as a routine check-up. I made note of his appalling living conditions.  The room was filthy, there were beard and nail trimmings on the floor, evidence of vermin, dirty bed linen.  Anthony was dishevelled and wearing dirty clothing. I encouraged him to eat and drink and get some fresh air, I was worried about his lack of muscle mass and poor diet.'

The court heard that before finding his body in March 2014, Lynda Rickard had called the doctors' surgery expressing concerns about Anthony and his eating habits.  Dr Edwards told the jury: 'I got a message to call Lynda Rickard about Anthony. As far as I can recall she had been worried about his eating over a previous couple of weeks. I prescribed him high calorie drinks to try to get some calories into him. She seemed happy but there was no particular urgency. I said I would be there within the next couple of days.  I had not seen him for the best part of 12 months, he had been dealing with my colleague. I do not know why I visited that day, possibly because I had time.'

Prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC claimed it was intuition that led Dr Edwards to check on Anthony at High Havens Farm but she was greeted with locked gates.  The doctor waited for live-in carer Lynda to return who told the GP she had not seen Anthony since the previous morning.  'When I got there, there was nothing out of the ordinary at the time. Lynda told me she had not seen Anthony since the previous morning as she had been clipping the horses.  Lynda knocked very loudly and called out ''Anthony, Anthony the doctor is here to see you'' it was unusual and it surprised me.  When the door opened, the first thing that struck me was that the room was tidy, that was really unusual. There were some clean clothes which also struck me as odd. The last time I went there the floor was covered.  My eyes then went down to the floor where I saw Anthony. He was clearly dead. He was stone cold, I think I touched his head and checked for his pulse, he was cold and stiff.  In the past when I had visited, there had been mouse droppings in his bedroom and I remember thinking I hope there was no mouse under that covering on his body.  I had not seen him for almost a year and he was grossly thinner. My concern in June 2013 was loss of muscle mass and looking thinner, he was grossly thinner on this occasion.  I told Lynda Rickard that he was clearly dead and we needed to remove ourselves from the room. She said ''oh Anthony'' fairly loudly,' the doctor told the jury at Reading Crown Court today.

After finding the body, the doctor explained she was 'surprised and shocked' before the pair waited in the High Havens Farm kitchen for the police to arrive.  The jury heard from Police Community Support Officer Thomas Bailey who attended the scene on March 18, 2014, and vividly recalled the room being freezing cold.  He said: 'I remember it being really cold in that room, there was a bucket of urine and the room smelled like urine.   I can't remember if there was a crack in the window or the windows were open but I can remember even now that it felt physically cold in that room.'

In addition to murder, Lynda Rickard, of Banbury, also denied gross negligence manslaughter; fraud; and two counts of perverting the course of justice.  Wayne Rickard 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.  Michael Dunkley, 48 years of Bloxham, near Banbury, stood charged with fraud in relation to the forged will of Mr Sootheran alongside 39-year-old Denise Neal, of Lower Tysoe, Warwickshire.  Shanda Robinson, aged 50 years, of Sage Road, Banbury denied fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.  The hearing continues.


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