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A “naive” Sports Direct worker who tried to hire a hitman via the Dark Web has been jailed for eight years.
Whitney Franks wanted to eliminate her love rival, Ruut Ruutna. Both women worked at the sports retail giant, and both were in love with another co-worker, James Prest.
Franks, 27, decided to have the other woman killed, and posted on a page claiming to sell “murder, drugs and guns” saying she was looking for an assassin.
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Franks said she had budget of £1,000 to hire a killer, but the post was spotted by a BBC employee who informed the police.
Reading Crown Court heard that Franks uploaded a post giving the other woman’s address and wrote: “I am looking to hire for a murder of a woman. I don’t have much money, I can offer £1,000 in sterling but I’m willing to pay more.
She added: “This woman has caused a lot of problems for myself and others, please can you help me resolve this for the best cost.”
Prosecutor Andrew Copeland said Franks started working at Sports Direct in 2011 when she was 16-years-old and met manager James Prest when he joined the store in 2014.
They started a relationship in 2016 and, in 2017, Ms Ruutna started working at the store and also began seeing Mr Prest.
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Franks had asked Mr Prest, who lived with his long-term partner he shares two children with, to stop sleeping with Ms Ruutna but, by August 2020, became aware he was still seeing her.
When police went to Sports Direct to speak to Ms Ruutna about the dark web post, she told them she had a “hunch” it was Franks.
During the trial Franks told jurors she made the post but denied she wanted to see Ms Ruutna dead – claiming she made the offer to see if the “bizarre” website was a scam.
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James McCrindell, defending Franks, said his client was in a “dark place” at the time.
He added: “The evidence at trial was that the persons she was dealing with were in fact scams or fraudsters so no harm was in fact ever going to come about on the face of the evidence.”
Judge Dugdale said that Franks "may have made some very wrong decisions through her immaturity and naivety".
“In this case there was no risk of any injury to Ruut Ruutna. Whitney Franks had come across a scam website, one that was going to take her money and do nothing in return for it. But she didn’t know that.”
Franks will have to serve two-thirds of her prison sentence before she can be released on licence.
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- Sports Direct
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