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May 18, 12:50 PM EDT

Jury rules UK man was hiring killer, not writing thriller


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LONDON (AP) -- A retired British television producer was convicted Thursday of trying to hire hit men to kill his partner, after a jury rejected his claim that he was merely conducting research for a thriller.

Prosecutors said David Harris offered three men large sums of money to kill his partner, Hazel Allinson, a former scriptwriter. Both worked on long-running TV police series "The Bill."

They told jurors at London's Central Criminal Court that Harris, 68, wanted to kill Allinson, inherit her fortune and move in with his girlfriend, a former professional basketball player from Lithuania in her 20s.

The first man that Harris asked declined to carry out the hit and the second went to police after Harris offered him 200,000 pounds ($260,000) to do the job.

The third "killer" was an undercover police officer.

The 68-year-old Harris claimed in court that he was working on a thriller called "Too Close to Kill," about a man in his 60s, his wife and his younger girlfriend.

But prosecution lawyer William Boyce said the producer was "utterly sinister, utterly convincing and utterly intent on the death of Hazel."

Jurors convicted Harris of soliciting murder after deliberating for five hours.

Allinson, the intended victim, refused to cooperate with the prosecution and even offered to give evidence in his defense. She was not in court for the verdict.

Judge Anne Molyneux said that over almost a year Harris "actively sought to murder his life partner."

She adjourned sentencing until July 14 for a report on whether Harris has a personality disorder to explain his "callousness" and lack of empathy.

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