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'Hitman' cemetery boss acquitted

22 May 09 17:29 GMT

A cemetery boss accused of hiring a hitman to kill his late millionaire father's lover has been cleared by a jury at the Old Bailey.

Erkin Guney, 44, managing director of Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, Surrey, was found not guilty of soliciting the murder of Diane Holliday, 47, in 2008.

He was accused of hiring a hitman, who was actually an undercover officer, to stop her claiming his father's fortune.

He told the court he had been set up and played along with the trap.

The court heard how Surrey Police staged an accident near Mrs Holliday's home in Woking, Surrey, in July last year to convince Mr Guney that she had been killed.

But he did not turn up to pay for the hit and was arrested at Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking, which he ran following the death of his father, Ramadan, at the age of 74 in 2006.

'Estate dispute'

Mr Guney told the jury he had been set up by an gravedigger and realised it was a trap from the start.

"I had no intention of meeting him. I didn't go to meet him because I was never going to meet him," he said.

The prosecution had alleged that Mrs Holliday had fallen out with Mr Guney's six grown-up children following his death and they were in dispute over his estate.

Mrs Holliday had been living with Mr Guney's late father, Ramadan, 76.

The defence branded her a "gold digger" and said she had tried to blackmail Harrods boss Mohammed al-Fayed, after his son Dodi died in the Paris car crash with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.

She denied the claim.

Mr Guney had been previously released on appeal from a 14-year jail sentence for drug and firearms offences.

During the trial he told jurors he had spotted a police "set-up" and went along with it to find out who was behind it.

The prosecution said Surrey Police staged an accident near Miss Holliday's home, to persuade Mr Guney that she had been run over.

Jurors were told he did not turn up to pay the "hitman", an undercover police officer, the promised £10,000 but had about £23,000 in cash when he was arrested at home.

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