Ex-Bill producer jailed for hiring prospective 'hitmen' tries to clear his name

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A retired producer on TV's The Bill has launched a bid to clear his name after being jailed for hiring three prospective "hitmen" to kill his wealthy wife so he could be with a young Lithuanian lover.

David Harris, 68, admitted he was a "silly old fool" for falling for 28-year-old former professional basketball player Ugne Cekaviciute and lavishing expensive gifts on her which he could ill afford.

But he denied persistent attempts to have his scriptwriter partner Hazel Allinson killed by offering £200,000 to stage a "mugging gone wrong", despite being caught on camera in an undercover police sting.

He told his Old Bailey trial he contacted the supposed hitmen as research for a murder mystery thriller he planned to write called Too Close To Kill.

But jurors rejected his explanation and found Harris guilty of three charges of soliciting murder in May.

Sentencing him to 17 years in jail last month, Judge Anne Molyneux QC told him: "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."

The court heard how Harris was desperate to inherit Ms Allinson's £800,000 home in the West Sussex village of Amberley and set up home with student Ms Cekaviciute after meeting her in a brothel.

Harris had mounting debts and used his partner's reputation in the village as chorister and parish councillor to borrow thousands of pounds from unsuspecting neighbours.

He was accused of showing complete contempt for Ms Allinson when he sneaked Ms Cekaviciute into her home and photographed her posing naked on a bed with her three spaniels.

In February last year, Harris approached mechanic Chris May for debt collection before offering him a deal for the hit on his partner.

Mr May repeatedly tried to warn Ms Allinson of the danger, approaching her as she left the gym at Goodwood Health Club.

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.

He told the officer: "An accident is a difficult thing to set up. I know it's a difficult thing to set up because I used to arrange stunts for movies. I spent 18 years on a show called The Bill."

Asked if he knew what he was getting into, Harris said: "I've never been more deadly serious about anything."

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.

By the time of his sentencing, Ms Cekaviciute was said to be out of the picture, while Harris's relationship with Ms Allinson was described as being an open question - although she was not present.

The court heard that Harris had all the hallmarks of social anxiety and a narcissistic personality disorder, with traits of manipulation for personal gain and lack of remorse or guilt.

Papers have now been lodged for Harris to appeal against his conviction, a Court of Appeal official confirmed to the Press Association.

The case is believed to be in its early stages and could take up to five months to come before a judge.