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Court hears pensioner tried to hire hitmen to kill partner 'so he could run off with lover'

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A pensioner tried to hire hitmen to kill his wealthy former TV scriptwriter partner of more than 30 years so he could inherit her estate and run off with his younger lover, a court heard.

David Harris, 68, is accused of offering three men up to £250,000 to murder Hazel Allinson so he could get his hands on assets including the £800,000 home he shared with her in the upmarket village of Amberley in West Sussex.

He provided detailed information about retired Ms Allinson's movements and appearance to give them opportunities to take her out, including on the way to church and as she walked her dog in the leafy village near Arundel, his trial at the Old Bailey in London heard.

But the first man tried unsuccessfully to warn the cancer-survivor about her partner's alleged intentions, and the second alerted police, who brought in an undercover detective to pose as "Chris", a third killer for hire.

He is accused of telling them: "Her purse-strings are so tight, it's just so f****** unbearable."

The court heard that Harris, who had also worked in TV production, had run up large debts by showering gifts, including jewellery, on Ugne Cekaviciute, whom he said he had first met in a brothel.

Prosecutor William Boyce QC told the court that after his arrest in November 2016, Harris denied hiring the men to kill his partner, whom he referred to as his wife, saying he was in fact researching a "thriller" novel he planned to write to make money.

Mr Boyce told the jury: "For more than 30 years he lived with his partner, Hazel Allinson, in London and then in Sussex.

"He found a new girlfriend, a much younger woman. Hazel Allinson had the money, he didn't.

"He wanted both the younger woman and the older woman's money.

"If he left her he thought he wouldn't get the money, and therefore he tried to arrange to have her murdered so he could have her money and the younger woman once she was dead."

The court heard that Harris, who had worked on shows including ITV police drama The Bill with local parish councillor Ms Allinson, had been lavishing gifts on Miss Cekaviciute and meeting her for trysts in London hotels.

He had resorted to borrowing thousands of pounds from neighbours and maxing out his credit cards to fund his double life, Mr Boyce told jurors.

Harris denies three charges of soliciting to murder Ms Allinson in 2016.

Mr Boyce said Harris spent beyond his means on his lover, saying: "He spent money on her, increasing amounts of money it would seem; gifts, flowers, movies, dinners, books for her studies, underwear and of course hotels. He would also give her cash.

"On his own account it seems he fell in love with her."

Harris used a "burner" mobile phone to contact the men he wanted to hire, the court heard.

He is accused of approaching London mechanic Christopher May in March 2016 and saying "I'm offering you £250,00 to kill my wife."

He is then said to have given Mr May details about Ms Allinson's routine and asked how quickly it could be done, including saying: "Could you do it tomorrow?"

In one text message Harris is said to have told Mr May: "My wife is due to go into hospital to have her ovaries removed so that might be the best option."

Mr May, the court heard, was worried when he realised Harris was serious, and travelled to Ms Allinson's gym near Chichester to warn her in person, while pretending to Harris that he might carry out the hit.

But he missed her, and when he later emailed her using a false name with a warning she asked him to speak to Harris.

The second man, Duke Dean, was approached in October 2016 and offered up to £175,000, the court heard. But he immediately alerted police, who set up a meeting between him, Harris and "Chris" in a bugged car in Balham, south-west London.

During the meeting, the court heard, Harris suggested they kill his partner and make it look like a mugging or a carjacking, but however it was done "it's got to be fatal".

He is accused of telling them: "I want the next five years with a girlfriend, living by the sea, OK? That's what I want."

All the men were offered small sums of money upfront, with the balance paid after he inherited Ms Allinson's money.

Mr Boyce told the jurors the help the defendant gave to men he thought were real killers-for-hire so they could get close to his partner went beyond what would have been needed for research.

While Harris claimed he "had a plot line for the book but had not yet fleshed it out", there was no evidence he had written anything down, the lawyer added.

Bespectacled Harris listened to proceedings in court though a hearing loop in the dock.

The trial, which is due to last three weeks, continues.