Speed Reads

Sports Direct trial: woman accused of hiring hitman over work love triangle

A BBC journalist stumbled upon the alleged plot while researching the dark web

A woman allegedly tried to hire a hitman on the dark web to murder a work colleague after she discovered they were both having an affair with their Sports Direct store manager.

Whitney Franks, 26, of Two Mile Ash, Milton Keynes, was described in Reading Crown Court as “rampantly jealous” after colleague Ruut Ruutna began working at the sports retail chain in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, and started a relationship with store manager James Prest.

Franks is accused of trying to hire an online assassin after posting an ad on the dark web offering £1,000 or “more” for the hit. But her advertisement, which included her love rival’s home address and personal details, “was spotted by Carl Miller, a BBC investigative journalist, who tipped off the police”, reported The Times

According to the prosecution, the message read: “I’m looking for the murder of a woman. I have £1,000 and I am willing to pay more. This woman has caused a lot of problems for myself and others. Please can you help sort this out.”

The prosecutor described Prest’s relationships with both women as “episodic”, adding that Franks left to work in a nearby branch in Bletchley in 2018, said the Mirror.

The prosecutor said how Franks had set up a cryptocurrency account, allowing her to make anonymous purchases online. She had bought £282.57 worth of Bitcoin on 20 August 2020, but three days later withdrew the funds, the prosecutor told the court.

When contacted by the police, Ruutna said she had a “hunch” who it might be and named Franks, before being taken to a safe house while the investigation continued.

Franks was arrested on 10 September and has claimed that she had just wanted to “examine” if the dark web was a “scam” and had no intention of ordering a hit. She denies one count of soliciting murder between 17 Augst and 1 September 2020. The trial is ongoing.

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