Judges back sentence for ex-TV producer who hired ‘hitman’ to kill wife

Courts
Courts

A village pensioner who plotted to have his partner murdered after becoming “besotted” with a 28-year-old had his 17-year sentence backed by senior judges.

David John Harris, 69, of Amberley, was locked up at the Old Bailey last July after jurors convicted him of soliciting the murder of Hazel Allinson, 68.

Harris, a retired TV producer, recruited a man to despatch his partner of 27 years, London’s Appeal Court heard.

But his plan came disastrously unstuck when it turned out the “hitman” was an undercover cop.

Prosecutors said Harris was in financial dire straits and increasingly reliant on Ms Allinson for cash.

The judge who sentenced Harris said he was “obsessed and infatuated” with 28-year Ugne Cekaviciute.

Harris had carried on a secret affair with her, telling Ms Allinson he was off to umpire a cricket match when they met up.

Harris’ contacts with the undercover detective were secretly filmed and recorded, Lady Justice Hallett told the court.

The pensioner told the supposed hitman that he “wished for Helen Allinson to meet with a fatal accident”.

“He said that he had been on a recent holiday in the south of France and had thought of pushing his wife off a cliff while on a walk.

“He produced photos of her as well as a copy of her schedule of movements,” the judge added.

Harris, however, insisted that he had cultivated contract killers only because he was writing a crime novel.

He would never have dreamt of killing Ms Allinson who was his “soul mate”, he claimed.

There was no question of him ditching his partner for Ms Cekaviciute, he told jurors.

A sentencing report on Harris suggested his crime was motivated by “infatuation and financial instability”, said Lady Justice Hallett.

“The author of this report expressed concern that Helen Allinson is still apparently supporting him”, she added.

Harris has a narcissistic personality and is prone to “manipulate others for personal gain”, the court heard.

Challenging his sentence, his lawyers pointed to his lack of previous convictions and the fact that he was not labelled a public danger.

But Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with two other judges, threw out his complaints.

She noted the “detailed planning” behind his crime, and Harris’ “sustained and determined efforts” to see his partner dead.

“In our view the sentence was justified,” she said, dismissing the appeal.