Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 18:04 UK

Cemetery boss 'feared poisoning'

Brookwood Cemetery
Erkin Guney took over the family business after his father died

A cemetery boss accused of hiring a hitman to kill his late father's lover suspected her of poisoning the elderly man, an Old Bailey jury has heard.

Erkin Guney, 44, managing director of Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, Surrey, denies soliciting the murder of Diane Holliday last year.

Jurors heard from grave digger Sabbah Shahmuradi who said Mr Guney offered him £10,000 to kill her.

Mr Shahmuradi said Mr Guney thought the woman was behind his father's death.

The court heard that Mr Guney called in police after his father died in Cyprus and no cause of death was entered on his death certificate.

'Responsible for death'

Later, he also asked officers to investigate his suspicion that Diane Holliday was defrauding the family firm that ran the cemetery.

He was very, very angry towards her. He said he had a job for me. That he wants me to get rid of her
Sabbah Shahmuradi

Mr Shahmuradi told the court that Mr Guney had said his father had died and that "the lady was responsible for his death and he felt he was poisoned".

He added: "There was some sort of court hearing going on between the family and this lady and she wanted half of the estate.

"He was very, very angry towards her. He said he had a job for me. That he wants me to get rid of her.

"He was a really nice guy but unfortunately he allowed his anger to put him in this position today."

Jurors heard that the pair discussed killing Miss Holliday in a hit-and-run accident to make it look like she had been hit by a drunk driver.

Mr Shahmuradi added that Mr Guney talked of shooting her and claimed the cemetery owner told him "blokes in the cemetery would burn her body and it would not be recovered".

The 23-year-old, who was on a police-run scheme to rehabilitate criminals, said he had no intention of carrying out the plan but went along with it because he did not want to be sacked.

The case was adjourned until Monday.

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