Ex-producer of The Bill sentenced for bid to hire men to kill partner

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A retired producer of TV drama The Bill is facing jail for trying to hire three men to kill his partner of 27 years so he could be with a Lithuanian lover 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 Ugne Cekaviciute, who he met in a brothel.

The 68-year-old admitted he got into a tangle of 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 an Old Bailey jury rejected his explanation and found him guilty of three charges of soliciting murder.

The trial had heard how 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 tales to keep breast cancer survivor Ms Allinson in the dark while he travelled to London for trysts with 6ft 1in Ms Cekaviciute.

Harris pretended to umpire matches for Arundel Castle Cricket Club to play away with his young lover and also told Ms Allinson he was tending to his sick brother in a mental hospital.

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.

Prosecutor William Boyce QC 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.

But 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.

Harris was then put in contact with 6ft 3in "man mountain" Zed - real name Duke Dean - through a friend at Nooks cafe in Stratford, east London, near to where Ms Cekaviciute had enrolled in college.

Recovering alcoholic Harris promised him £200,000 for the job, but in November last year Zed reported him to City of London Police instead.

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.

Giving evidence, Harris claimed he was researching a thriller entitled Too Close To Kill, based on his alter ego Tom Noble, a wife called Holly - named after one of the family dogs - and a sporty young woman who worked in a brothel or cafe.

He said: "I thought what was happening to me at that time, at that particular juncture, might form the basis of a good thriller.

"It was based on a guy based on me, my sort of age, meets a young girl, falls in love, becomes besotted and over development decides he wants to be with her and decides what he has to do about his wife Holly."

Judge Anne Molyneux QC will sentence Harris at the Old Bailey on Friday.