A reporter posing as a hitman for hire was asked by a Birmingham businessman if he could have his estranged wife and her lover killed, a court has been told.

It is alleged Jasbinder Heer, whose wife was having an affair with another man, had told a freelance journalist he wanted them dead.

Birmingham Crown Court was told that the journalist then approached the News of the World who arranged for one of their reporters to pretend he was a contract killer and meet Heer in a hotel room in Coventry. The meeting was secretly filmed.

Heer, 36, of Somerset Road, Handsworth Wood, has denied soliciting Neville Thurlbeck to murder Monica Aheer and her lover Harsarup Mehmi on July 25 last year.

Mr Thurlbeck said that the freelance journalist, Ronald Sutton, had been in the hotel room and described him as someone who was thorough and who liked to be involved in every aspect of the operation.

He said he was a reliable source and over previous years had provided "impeccable information.''

Mr Thurlbeck said that he was concerned that during the meeting Mr Sutton would feed lines to Mr Heer.

''I was concerned that we preserve the integrity of the evidence in the sense that Mr Sutton did not lead Heer,'' he said.

He went on: "I was determined that whatever Heer wanted done he told me in his own words.''

Asked about how he felt the meeting had gone he said: "I was very happy with it because the subject of the killing was originated by Heer and not by anybody else.''

Mr Thurlbeck said the evidence captured on film was sufficient to persuade him that Heer's intentions were genuine.

Earlier Mr Sutton, who also worked as a market trader in Nuneaton, had told the court that his partner was related to Heer and that he had been paid either £3,000 or £3,500 by the News of the World.

Under cross-examination he denied that he had suggested to Heer that his wife and her lover could be made to "disappear'' and that he knew someone who had been in the Army and would do it for £3,000.

Mr Timothy Raggatt, QC, prosecuting said during the hotel room meeting Heer's main concern was that whatever happened would not lead back to him but he said that he later got cold feet about the plot.

Pc Nigel Smith said that he knew Heer and that on the evening of July 25 the defendant had called at his home and told him about the meeting.

He said Heer told him he believed he was being "set up'' by someone in order to hinder access to his child.