England

Hitman-accused met 'sleazy underworld characters for novel'

St Richard's Hospital
Image caption Mr Harris planned to kill Hazel Allinson at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, the court heard

A man accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill his long-term partner claims he was researching the "hypothetical" act for a novel.

David Harris, 68, denies three counts of soliciting to murder Hazel Allinson, a former TV scriptwriter for The Bill.

The Old Bailey previously heard Mr Harris had offered three men money to have his partner murdered in hospital.

The jury heard he wanted her assets, including the £800,000 property they shared in Amberley, West Sussex.

The court heard Mr Harris allegedly harboured ambitions to write his own thriller after receiving an e-reader one Christmas and becoming hooked on the genre.

In November 2016 he met an undercover policeman posing as a hitman called Chris.

They met in the car park of Sainsbury's in Balham, south London and were introduced by a 6ft 3in (1.9m) "man mountain" called Zed, to whom he had previously given Ms Allinson's details and a photograph.

'Underworld' research

Unknown to Mr Harris, Zed, whose real name is Duke Dean, had already reported him to City of London Police, members of the jury heard.

The recovering alcoholic told police Ms Allinson was his "soulmate" but he had fallen in love with a younger woman, Ugne Cekaviciute, after meeting her in a brothel.

In police transcripts read to the court, Mr Harris said he was planning to write a "murder mystery thriller" to "earn some money".

He said he wanted to find someone in the "underworld" to "point me in the right direction" and had been trawling "sleazy" east London pubs to that end.

Describing his meeting with "Chris", he told police: "We talked about money. I told him I didn't have any. I told him everything had been discussed with the other guy."

'Write what you know'

Mr Harris told he police he was "scared" of "Chris" but felt he was close to getting the information he needed for his storyline.

He said: "If you are going to write about something, you write about what you know."

He said he had not informed "Chris" of his true intentions because "when I told other guys it was for a book, they walked away".

Under questioning he told officers he had not written down any of his novel as it was still in his head.

The trial continues.

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