A DOCTOR discovered her skeleton-like patient starved to death in his bedroom next to a plate of chocolate bars, a doughnut and a bag of McDonald's food which looked 'fresher than him', a jury heard today.

Retired auctioneers' clerk James 'Anthony' Sootheran had weighed 17 stone in his younger days but his body - discovered by his doctor on March 18, 2014, in his bedroom - was half his former size, weighing a meagre nine stone.

Lynda and Wayne Rickard of Banbury are on trial for murdering Mr Sootheran after he was found starved to death – a charge they both deny.

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At the trial at Reading Crown Court, blonde-haired Mrs Rickard admitted using Anthony and his mother Joy’s money as her own, forging both their wills and trying to pass them both off as genuine – knowing they were not.

A jury heard how intuition led Dr Hilary Edwards – Mr Sootheran’s GP – to drive to High Havens Farm, South Newington, near Banbury to check on him.

However she was greeted by locked gates.

The doctor said she waited for live-in carer Lynda Rickard to return, when she told the GP she had not seen Mr Sootheran since the previous morning.

Oxford Mail:

James Anthony Sootheran.

Prosecuting 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.”

The doctor was struck by how clean the room looked, 'cleaner than normal', and noted there were new clothes on the chair and food placed near Mr Sootheran, which was unusual in her experience, the prosecutor added.

The jury watched a video from a police body-worn camera on the afternoon they discovered the 59-year-old.

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The skeletal man could be seen dead lying on a mattress on the floor, with a plate of chocolate bars, toast and an apple placed close to his head.

Mr Saxby QC 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."

Dr Ben Phillips, a pathologist, carried out a post-mortem examination on the 6ft tall man and found him to be 'cachetic' or severely lacking in muscle.

Oxford Mail:

Joy Sootheran.

The prosecutor told the jury: "He had multiple small scabs on his skin over the majority of his body, the skin of his legs was thickened and scaly and there were abrasions on his head, shoulder, elbow, knee and ankle.

"There was evidence of poor hygiene and a large pressure sore at the base of his spine measuring seven centimetres by seven centimetres."

Just three weeks before his tragic death, Lynda Rickard had called 111 after Mr Sootheran had fallen out of bed.

The jury listened intently to the conversation where she called him a 'recluse' and an operator advised she should take him to Accident and Emergency within the next four hours for his injuries.

Lynda Rickard did not take Mr Sootheran to hospital nor did she call back, the jury heard.

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Mr Saxby QC said: “As of February 23, [Lynda Rickard’s 111 call], there would have been signs of the pressure sore. Anthony would have been virtually immobile, would have suffered rapid weight loss, probably had little food intake and would not have been in a fit state to make informed decisions about his welfare.”

Lynda and Wayne Rickard of Edinburgh Close, Banbury, were jointly charged with causing the murder of Mr Sootheran, fraud in relation to buying a Mitsubishi Shogun and perverting the course of public justice.

Mrs Rickard was additionally charged with gross negligence manslaughter.

Dunkley, of Brickle Lane, Bloxham, and Neal, of Radway Road, Lower Tysoe, Warwickshire, are charged with one count of fraud by false representation.

It is alleged that between January 28 and May 31 2014, Dunkley and Neal falsely claimed a will in the name of Mr Sootheran, dated February 19 2014, was genuine.

Robinson, of Sage Road, Banbury, Oxfordshire, is charged with one count of fraud by false representation between January 1 2012 and September 30 2012.

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It is alleged that Robinson falsely claimed a will in the name of Mary Joy Sootheran was genuine and had been witnessed in her presence.

She is also accused of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, which she denies.

June Alsford, 77, of Little Lane in Aynho, Northamptonshire, who is not standing trial, has already pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and one count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Saxby told the jury: “Lynda Rickard, with a new will in mind, was perfectly happy for Anthony Sootheran to fade away. Not only did she neglect him - with her husband’s support and assistance - she also played an active part in accelerating his death.

“Their motive was obvious. If he died, they stood to gain financially and substantially. This was Lynda Rickard’s plan. But it was not one she could achieve without her husband’s assistance, everything would have been lost had he decided, off his own bat, to give Anthony proper food, or call in the emergency services.

“The allegation we make that she precipitated Anthony Sootheran’s death is an incredibly serious one. Do not doubt, we say, that for money, she would have been willing to do just that.”

The trial – expected to last three months before High Court judge Mr Justice Nicol – was adjourned until Tuesday.