Woman Who Starved Millionaire to Death After Forging His Will Jailed for Life

An English woman has been sentenced to a minimum of 28 years in prison after she was convicted of starving her millionaire landlord to death in order to inherit part of his £3.5 million ($4.9 million) estate.

Lynda Rickard, 62, was convicted on Tuesday of murdering 59-year-old Anthony Sootheran, a former auctioneer's clerk, at his home located close to South Newington, Oxfordshire, in England, in 2014.

Her husband, Wayne Rickard, 66, was acquitted of Sootheran's murder, but was still sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in prison for causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult, according to a statement from the Thames Valley Police.

Sootheran died at his home, which had more than 60 acres of land, on March 18, 2014. At the time of his death, he weighed 126 pounds, despite standing at more than 6 feet tall.

He was immobile and bed-bound during his final few weeks and was deprived of food by Rickard, the department said.

Sootheran was found "severely emaciated" in his room, and the court heard that malnutrition and a deep-seated pressure sore led to a fatal lung infection.

Although the death was initially not treated as suspicious, activity in his bank account after his death prompted investigators to reopen the case.

The Rickards had been live-in tenants with Anthony Sootheran and his mother Joy Sootheran at the farm from 2008.

Lynda Rickard was paid £47,000 (around $66,450) a year to work as a carer for Joy Sootheran, who died in 2012 at the age of 92. They continued living at the farm under a rental agreement with Anthony until his death in 2014.

Lynda Rickard pleaded guilty to forging both the will of Anthony and Joy Sootheran, to make eligible for a third of the former's £3.5 million estate and half of the latter's £1.5 million ($2.1 million) fortune.

She also took up to £300,000 (around $424,000) from the accounts of the Sootherans and had discouraged visitors to the farm, thus isolating her landlord, according to BBC News.

However, she denied the charge of murder, and claimed that his death was caused by the way the 59-year-old chose to live his life, according to Sky News.

Prosecutors believe that Lynda Rickard's conviction was the first successful prosecution for murder by deliberate starvation in the U.K. for more than 100 years, still according to Sky News.

Judge Mr Justice Wall handed down a life sentence with a minimum of 28 years in prison to Lynda, and said in court on Tuesday: "Your greed was such that when you thought Anthony Sootheran might act in a way which would derail your gravy train, you murdered him.

"You murdered Anthony in a most cruel and hard-hearted way. You starved him of food and left him on a mattress on the floor of his room to die."

While speaking about her husband, the judge said: "You were the only person who could have saved Anthony Sootheran but instead... you left him to die the most horrible of deaths."

While in a statement read in court, the landlord's daughter Hannah Sootheran said: "I can't comprehend how somebody who said they cared deeply for my dad left him to die in such horrible conditions."

Hannah Sootheran has won a civil case to restore the contents of the will to her, when the couple attempted to prove that the forged wills were legal. The couple was evicted from the farm in 2017, according to Sky News.

Four of the couple's friends were also convicted of various crimes relating to the creation of the fake wills. They were all given jail sentences.

Newsweek has contacted Thames Valley Police for comment.

Lynda Rickard in Thames Valley Police custody
Lynda Rickard in the custody of Thames Valley Police. Rickard was sentenced to a minimum of 28 years in prison on Tuesday after being convicted of murdering 59-year-old Anthony Sootheran, a former auctioneer’s clerk. Thames Valley Police