Hit Man Doctor Guilty
Daily Mail 23rd June 1984
CONSULTANT Dr Brian Richards was found guilty last night of trying to arrange the murder of Harley Street clinic proprietor Peter Stephan.
He was convicted on two counts of 'solicitation of murder' by trying to hire American Ronald Bennett as a hit man.
He was acquitted by the jury at Santa Monica Superior Court in California on a third count.
'Dick' Richards, 53, from Sandwich, Kent, comes up for sentencing on July 31. Prosecutor Tom Sokolov said he would demand a prison term. Each charge carries a maximum of six years' jail but, according to Sokolov, the most Richards could get in total under California's complicated sentencing laws would be seven years and four months.
Last night Richards was freed on £32,500 bail and said he would return to Britain as soon as possible. The judge rejected a plea by the prosecution for him to be held in custody.
The silver-haired doctor was apparently .shattered by his conviction. He had prepared a statement for reporters on the assumption that he would be found innocent.
The first of the three verdicts was that of Not Guilty. Mr Stephan's estranged wife Carolyn, sitting with Richards's wife Pixie, smiled encouragement and put her arm round her.
Then came the two guilty verdicts. Richards slumped forward and shook his head. His wife wept.
Richards turned to her, whispering 'I'm not beaten yet' and blowing a kiss.
'Face the front,' Judge Laurence told him brusquely. Afterwards Richards walked across the court to embrace his wife.
Then, telling reporters 'they got it wrong,' he hurried to a phone to give 'the bad news' to his children back in Britain. Sue, 26, lives in London where she is a secretary and Mark, 24, who works in his father's mail order business, lives in Deal, Kent.
Richards's lawyer said there would be appeals against the two guilty verdicts brought in after seven hours by the jury of nine men and three women.
Richards was a medical consultant for Mr Stephan's Harley Street rejuvenation clinic when he came to California last September on holiday.
He insists that he strung Bennett along as 'a charade' to find out what his intentions were towards Mr Stephan, because of bitterness over the failure of a Stephan-Bennett deal involving a purported cure for herpes.
Mrs Stephan, 29, a South African-born former model, flew to California to back Richards's story in court. She claimed Bennett had threatened that he had Mafia connections who might put out a contract to have Mr Stephan kilted.
The Not Guilty verdict related to Richards's first meeting with Bennett in September last year, at a Malibu restaurant.
But at two later meetings Bennett, 50, was 'wired' by police. The jury heard an audio tape of the conversation between him and Richards at a Los Angeles hotel. They decided they had heard the doctor trying to arrange Mrs Stephan's murder.
They also watched a video-tape, with sound, of Richards and Bennett talking over drinks at a Malibu restaurant. Richards handed over $2,500 in $100 bills—a down-payment for the hit, according to the prosecution. The jury agreed.
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