A retired producer of TV drama The Bill has been convicted of trying to hire three men to kill his partner of 27 years after becoming besotted with a woman 40 years his junior.
David Harris offered £200,000 to murder Hazel Allinson so he could inherit her fortune, sell her £800,000 home and live out his days with Lithuanian Ugne Cekaviciute, who he met in a brothel.
The 68-year-old admitted he got into a tangle of elaborate lies and mounting debt as he lavished expensive gifts on the 28-year-old former professional basketball player during their five-year affair. He denied wanting retired scriptwriter Ms Allinson dead and claimed he only wanted to talk to hitmen as research for a murder mystery novel before he was snared in an undercover sting.
But prosecutor William Boyce QC said Harris his story was “absurd” and told him: “You were utterly sinister, utterly convincing and utterly intent on the death of Hazel.”
An Old Bailey jury rejected Harris’s explanation and convicted him of soliciting murder. Ms Allinson, who was present as details of her partner’s betrayal were aired in court, refused to co-operate with the prosecution. And it can now be reported that while Harris was in the witness box, she offered to give evidence to back up part of his defence.
Harris sat in silent prayer as he was found guilty after the jury deliberated for five hours. The court was told there was no prospect of Ms Allinson attending court for the verdict.
Harris blew £50,000 of Ms Allinson’s retirement savings and used her reputation as a parish councillor and church chorister to borrow thousands of pounds from neighbours in the upmarket West Sussex village of Amberley.
The grey-haired pensioner pawned a gold wrist watch and diamond ring and made up increasingly elaborate lies to keep breast cancer survivor Ms Allinson in the dark as he travelled to London for trysts with 6ft 1in tall Ms Cekaviciute.
Harris spun a tale that Ms Cekaviciute was the girlfriend of his nephew who was out of contact after having a terrible car accident in Serbia. Mr Boyce told jurors that 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. When Mr May failed to oblige, Harris sent him a sinister text saying: “She’s back. What the f*** happened? She’s dog walking this afternoon. Where are you?”
Mr May repeatedly tried to warn Ms Allinson of the danger by approaching her as she left the gym at Goodwood health club and by email.