Page last updated at 18:56 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 19:56 UK

'Duped' farmer died malnourished

A still of David Cooper from a video tape
Police said David Cooper lived in conditions similar to "animal quarters"

The death of a Dorset farmer who lived in squalid conditions after being duped out of his £1m farm by a couple could have been avoided, an inquest was told.

David Cooper, 51, died in November 2006, two years after the couple moved into his farm in Buckhorn Weston and took over its main building.

The inquest in Dorchester heard he died from an undiagnosed but treatable Type 1 diabetes condition.

A verdict of death by natural causes contributed to by neglect was recorded.

'No heating'

The inquest heard a post-mortem examination showed Mr Cooper was malnourished, with symptoms of scurvy, dehydration and sunken eyes.

His duodenum and small bowel were empty, showing he had not eaten well before he died on 5 November 2006.

Coroner Michael Johnston said: "David Cooper lived in the other part of the farm which may have been a buttery or cheese room and can be described as derelict.

"It doesn't appear to have any proper sanitation, no heating, no real cooking arrangements.

"If he had sought medical help his death would have almost certainly been avoided."

Sonia Crabb and Tony Junge
Sonia Crabb and Tony Junge moved into the farm in 2004

The inquest heard unemployed mother-of-five Sonia Crabb and her boyfriend Tony Junge had moved with their five children into Mr Cooper's farmhouse.

Crabb was jailed for 27 months and car dealer Junge for 24 months at Bournemouth Crown Court in April.

The pair, originally from Templecombe in Somerset, had denied a charge of conspiracy to steal between 2004 and 2006, but were convicted by jurors at the end of a trial at Dorchester Crown Court in March.

The inquest heard Mr Cooper was "educationally subnormal" and "vulnerable". He was described at Crabb and Junge's trial as of below average intelligence and open to exploitation.

When Crabb and Junge sold their house in Templecombe and moved into the farm with their five children, Mr Cooper began to sell off plots of land to Crabb over the 20-month period.

The couple made more than £298,000 for about 100 acres (40.5 hectares) a jury heard.

Mr Cooper also spent around £170,000 on Crabb, and transferred his £640,000 farmhouse and most of the remaining land into Crabb's name, leaving the rest to her in his will.

They took over the main house and built a 6ft (1.8m) wall to separate the farm house and buttery and two internal doors linking them were breeze-blocked.

Mr Cooper had to scale the wall to get out of the farm yard.

Det Sgt Martin Jobe told the inquest: "David Cooper's side, I would say, was similar to animal quarters that had been cleaned out.

"There was no plaster on the wall and a very odd set up."

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