Landmark murder conviction – Oliver Saxby QC prosecuting

June 4, 2021

On 28 May 2021, Lynda Rickard was convicted of murdering a man called Anthony Sootheran in what the Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, described as a ‘legal landmark case’. As the CPS said, ‘This is understood to be the first time in more than a century that a successful prosecution for murder by deliberate starvation has been made’.

Oliver Saxby QC was leading Jane Brady of St Paul’s Chambers, Leeds and Sarita Basra of CPS Thames and Chiltern. They were instructed by CPS Thames and Chiltern Senior Crown Prosecutor, Robbie Weber.

The CPS link, below, sets out some of the detail; but, in essence, the Crown alleged that Lynda Rickard forged Mr Sootheran’s will and then set about starving him to death, she having previously forged his mother’s will and defrauded both mother and son of substantial amounts of money.

Lynda Rickard’s husband, Wayne Rickard, was convicted of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable person. Three others, Shanda Robinson, Denise Neal and Michael Dunkley, were convicted of offences relating to the forging of the mother and son’s wills.

The case was an enormously complex one with over 20,000 pages of served evidence. The relevant facts spanned many years and involved substantial detail, expert medical evidence, expert handwriting evidence and expert forensic accountancy evidence.

The case also involved complex law – for instance on murder by starvation (count 1, Lynda Rickard and Wayne Rickard), gross negligence manslaughter (count 2, alternative, Lynda Rickard) and causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable person (count 3, alternative, Wayne Rickard).

Presenting the Crown’s case in a way that was both digestible and comprehensive gave rise to real challenges. It was only achieved by a rigorous focus on the facts of relevance to the issues raised, by the use of jury aids and by the calling of the Crown’s evidence in a logical and concise manner.

Sentence took place on Tuesday 1 June 2021. A copy of the Judge’s sentencing remarks is attached.

The following were the sentences imposed:

Lynda Rickard (murder): Life, Minimum Term 28 years imprisonment

Wayne Rickard (causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable person): 10 1/2 years imprisonment

Shanda Robinson (fraud and perverting the course of justice): 32 months imprisonment

Denise Neal (fraud): 27 months imprisonment

Michael Dunkley (fraud): 24 months imprisonment

A sixth defendant, June Alsford, received a 2 year suspended sentence of imprisonment for the offences of fraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to Joy Sootheran’s will to which she had pleaded guilty at an earlier stage in the proceedings.

Links to media coverage of this case are below:-

Click here for news item from the Crown Prosecution Service

Click here for BBC News Report

Click here for news item in The Metro

Click here for news item in The Sun

Click here for news item in The Evening Standard

Click here for news item in The Mirror

Click here for news item in The Daily Mail

Click here for further BBC News Report