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A former producer of The Bill has been jailed for 17 years for trying to hire three hitmen to kill his wealthy partner after falling for a Lithuanian lover 40 years his junior.
David Harris, 68, offered £200,000 to murder Hazel Allinson in a “mugging gone wrong” as he plotted to sell her £800,000 home and live out his days in luxury with Ugne Cekaviciute, whom he met in a brothel.
After he was caught in an undercover sting, Harris admitted he was a “silly old fool” to fall for the 28-year-old former professional basketball player but denied wanting Ms Allinson dead.
An Old Bailey jury found him guilty on three charges of soliciting murder, having rejected his claims to be researching a murder mystery novel entitled Too Close To Kill.
Passing sentence, Judge Anne Molyneux QC said: “For your pipe dream, for your obsessive infatuation with a young woman, Ms Allinson, who had protected and nurtured you, was to die a painful and terrifying death in an isolated spot.
“Her death was to fund your life. You had used her until she had outlasted her usefulness to you.
“All that you wanted from her was that she should die and you should inherit her money.”
The trial had heard that Harris blew £50,000 of Ms Allinson’s savings and used her reputation as a parish councillor and church chorister to borrow thousands of pounds from neighbours in the West Sussex village of Amberley.
He pawned a gold wristwatch and diamond ring and made up increasingly elaborate lies to keep breast cancer survivor Ms Allinson in the dark while he travelled to London for trysts with 6ft 1in Ms Cekaviciute.
In a show of “complete contempt”, Harris sneaked Ms Cekaviciute into her home and photographed her posing naked on a bed with Ms Allinson’s three spaniels, jurors heard.
Harris decided the only way out of his predicament was to pay a hitman to kill Ms Allinson in a staged mugging or car-jacking.
In February last year, Harris approached mechanic Chris May for debt collection before offering him a deal for the hit on his partner.
Instead, Mr May repeatedly tried to warn Ms Allinson of the danger, approaching her as she left the gym at Goodwood Health Club and by email.
Harris then approached 6ft 3in “man mountain” Zed – real name Duke Dean – and promised him £200,000 for the job, but in November last year Zed reported him to the City of London Police.
Zed introduced Harris to another prospective hitman, undercover officer “Chris”, who secretly videoed the meeting in a Sainsbury’s car park in Balham, south London.
The next day police burst into a room at the Balham Lodge Hotel to arrest Harris and found him lying naked in bed with Ms Cekaviciute.
The court heard that Harris had all the hallmarks of “social anxiety and a narcissistic personality disorder”, with traits of “manipulation, personal gain and lack of remorse or guilt”.
Reading from reports, prosecutor Philip McGhee noted the twice divorced father-of-one, who maintained his innocence despite his conviction, had a “complex and dysfunctional relationship with women”, including his partner and girlfriend.
Anthony Rimmer, mitigating, said Ms Cekaviciute is now “out of the picture” and his relationship with Ms Allinson, who was not in court, remains an “open question”.
Harris, who wore a pink checked shirt, listened intently on earphones in the dock as he was sentenced.
Afterwards, Detective Chief Inspector Edelle Michaels, of City of London Police, said Harris was a “ruthless man” who had shown “significant planning and persistence”.
“The facts of the case have shown him to be a calculating, manipulative person who was intent on causing serious harm to his victim. His persistence was evident in his approaching not one but three different supposed hitmen.
“This has been a hugely difficult time for the victim, who has been significantly affected.
“The situation could have been far worse had Harris succeeded with his plan and there was an element of good fortune that one of the men Harris approached informed the police, prompting our swift response to ensure the safety of Harris’s intended victim.”
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