A former TV producer on the police drama, The Bill, has been found guilty of hiring three hitmen to kill his partner in order to inherit her fortune and run off with his Lithuanian prostitute girlfriend.
David Harris, 69, faces a possible life sentence, after a jury at the Old Bailey rejected his claims that he had simply been researching a book when he offered potential assassins, up to £250,000 to kill 69-year-old parish councillor, Hazel Allinson.
The 5ft 8in pensioner was convicted of three counts of incitement to murder after becoming obsessed with 6ft 1inch former basketball professional, Ugne Cekaviciute, 28.
Harris told the Old Bailey he had met Miss Cekaviciute when she was working in a brothel in Worthing, and he ran up huge debts showering her with gifts and treating her to lavish dinner and stays in expensive hotels.
David Harris became obsessed with Lithuanian, Ugne Cekaviciute
But he denied plotting to kill Miss Allinson, to inherit her £800,000 estate, insisting that his meetings with hitmen had been research into a thriller he was writing called Too Close to Kill, about a middle-aged lawyer who wanted his wife murdered in order to be with a younger lover.
Harris, a former alcoholic, who joined the film industry from school as an apprentice, met Harris in the 1980s when they were both working on the TV drama, The Bill.
Charming and gregarious, but with an air of vulnerability, she quickly fell for him and they moved in together at her home in south London.
Friends said they appeared to be devoted to one another and with her support Harris gave up drinking completely.
The couple initially lived in Miss Allinson’s home in Norbury, south west London, before later upgrading to a smart house in the Wandsworth area.
In 2010 they moved to the picturesque Amberley on the edge of the South Downs where Miss Allinson threw herself village life, joining the parish council and the choir at St Michael’s Church.
But village life seemed too sleepy for Harris who yearned for more spice in his life.
Despite being in his mid 60s, Harris admitted to having a voracious sexual appetite and when Miss Allinson was diagnosed with breast cancer their physical relationship suffered.
Hazel Allinson arriving at the Old Bailey
He used her illness as an excuse to start visiting brothels, including one in Worthing which is where he claimed he first met Miss Cekaciute, a blonde former basketball professional, who was working as a part-time escort to help supplement her income as a carer for disabled adults.
Harris told the jury at his trial: “I became besotted with her. I thought that she was too young and too nice to be in a brothel.”
He suggested she quit the sex industry and offered to help her financially, even offering to pay for her to attend college.
Ugne Cekaviciute, wearing a number 12 shirt
Miss Cekaviciute signed up for a business studies course at St Patrick’s College in Maryland in east London and Harris even got his partner, Miss Allinson to unwittingly help out with her homework when she was struggling.
Harris explained: “I started to see her on a more regular basis…it started to get very expensive – dinner, lunch, hotels – and I just couldn’t afford it so I started drawing out of that capital Hazel had given me.”
In his attempt to impress his young lover and stop her finding a man nearer her own age Harris managed to blow £50,000.
But he was a man of extremely limited means and with just his state pension and a £300 a month allowance from Miss Allinson to rely on, Harris was forced to pawn watches and jewellery and even borrow money from friends in the village.
I became besotted with her. I thought that she was too young and too nice to be in a brothelDavid Harris
With his debts spiralling and Miss Allinson suspicious about how much time he was spending away from home, he eventually realised the situation was unsustainable and perhaps drawing on his experiences working in television drama came up with the extraordinary solution of hiring a hitman to kill her.
He initially approached a mechanic at his garage in Kingston, telling him he was looking for someone who might be able to help him recover a debt.
Christopher May was asked by Harris to kill Hazel Allinson but tried to tip her off
He was put in touch with another mechanic called Christopher May, who was training to become a private investigator.
They first met on February 19 2016 when Harris informed May he was actually looking for a hitman for hire.
He handed over a black and white photograph of the intended victim and also gave him the number of the private plate on her White Saab convertible, offering him £250,000 to carry out the hit.
Harris even suggested that a good time to kill her would be when she was going into hospital to undergo a cancer operation.
"Her mother and sister died of ovarian cancer so she is going in to have her ovaries out," he callously told May, ”I want you to know, I need to get this done and the sooner the better," he went on.
Harris suggested making it “look like a mugging gone wrong”, but despite giving May very specific details about Ms Allinson’s movements, including when she was due to attend choir practice, he failed to go through with it.
David Harris hoped to inherit Hazel Allinson's £800,000 home in Amberley
Angry that his plan had not been carried out he sent a text message to May which read: “She’s back. What the f*** happened. She is dog walking this afternoon. Where are you?”
Rather than killing her, May had in fact tried to contact Ms Allinson to warn her, telling her her husband was having an affair.
But she did not believe him and blocked him from sending her further messages.
Frustrated but not put off, Harris tried again to find a hitman, this time making contact with Duke Dean, a 6ft 4in "man-mountain" who went by the nickname ‘Zed’.
I started to see her on a more regular basis…it started to get very expensive – dinner, lunch, hotels – and I just couldn't afford itDavid Harris
He offered Dean, £200,000 and even took him on a "recce" of Amberley, pointing out the church where his partner regularly attended choir practice.
But rather than carrying out the hit, Mr Dean went to police and told them of Harris’s murderous plot.
He was put in touch with an undercover police officer who met him on November 11 in a Sainsbury’s car park in south west London.
The undercover officer told him: "I need to know you know what you are getting yourself into" and he replied: "I know 100 per cent…I have never been more deadly serious about anything before."
David Harris was in bed with his lover at a hotel in south London when he was arrested
Harris was arrested the following morning at the Balham Lodge Hotel where police found him naked in bed with Miss Cekaviciute.
Never one to be lost for words, Harris quickly assured police that the whole thing was a mistake, explaining he had merely been meeting hitmen as research for a book he was writing.
He explained that the novel was about a character called Tom Noble, a middle-aged lawyer who was in love with a much younger girl but married to a rich older woman who had cheated on him.
Challenged in court why he had not written a single word of the novel, Harris maintained that he still not finalised the plot, however he remained confident when complete he would be able to sell the film rights.
Harris acknowledged that he had made mistakes in his life but claimed that during his seven months on remand in prison, he had found God and had converted to Catholicism.
Miss Allinson sat in the public gallery for much of the trial, but refused to give evidence for the prosecution.