'I was not serious about it' says Sports Direct worker accused of trying to hire a hitman to wipe out her love rival

The woman accused of using the dark web to try to hire a hitman to murder her love rival has admitted she had been watching a lot of true crime documentaries at the time.

By Sally Murrer
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 9:44 am

Whitney Franks, 26, from Two Mile Ash, is on trial at Reading Crown Court for soliciting to murder 29-year-old Ruut Ruutna following a love triangle in which they were both dating CMK Sports Direct general manager James Prest.

The jury heard earlier this week that Franks was jealous of Ms Ruutna’s involvement with Mr Prest, who also had a long term partner and two children.

She is denying a charge of soliciting to murder.

Whitney Franks denies soliciting to murder

Franks told the jury that that she was very upset when she discovered that the Estonian redhead, who likes to be known as Ruth, was having an affair with Mr Prest at the same time as he was having sex with her.

And she insisted her sortees into the dark web to hire a hitman to kill Ms Ruutna were just her way of proving to herself that the website was a scam.

Despite admitting posting more than once on the website that she wanted someone to murder her rival - for which she would pay at least £1,000 - Franks maintained she would not have carried the plot through.

Giving evidence in her defence, Franks - who now works as a duty manager in an Iceland store - said: "When I was working for Sports Direct I developed a relationship with James Prest and I was seeing him on a regular basis.

James Prest

"I knew of his partner and children but I didn't feel anything about it. About two years before I confronted Ruut at the bus stop, I had my suspicions of him and Ruut, but then that died down for a long while.

"It went quiet but in retail everybody knows everyone's business. My suspicions came back and he had become very distant from me, like he was before. Although we never lived together we would message each other all the time. We would be up until two or three in the morning.

"I asked James if anything was going on between them and he said no, they were just friends."

However in a brief interaction at a bus stop they would occasionally see each other at, Franks asked Ms Ruutna about Mr Prest and she admitted they were seeing each other.

"I was very upset about James and Ms Ruutna's relationship because I was meant to feel loved and then there was someone else in the picture, as you would if your partner started seeing somebody else," Ms Franks added.

The jury at Reading Crown Court also heard how Franks had sent screenshots of a text conversation between herself and Ms Ruutna, purporting that she had told Franks she wasn't taking their relationship seriously. However Franks admitted to the jury that she had faked the entire interaction.

She told the court: "It was stupid and pathetic of me."

Discussing the message asking for Ms Ruutna to be killed, she told the jury: "In August 2020 I had a lot of time on my hands so I got invested in different things and I watched a lot of true crime documentaries. There were a lot of those going around

"In one of the documentaries it explained that the dark web was a thing and explained what you could do on there. It intrigued me because it was quite bizarre.

"I had seen an article online and it explained all the aspects of what what you can do and what services and items you can buy. In the documentary they mentioned you can buy drugs, weapons, murder, arson.

"I came across a website on the normal internet which explained a step-by-step guide on how to access it. I copied and pasted a link on the website into the dark web and that website was the first submission I made regarding Ms Ruutna.

"That was the first website I accessed on the dark web. I was convinced it was a scam."

During questioning, Franks revealed that she had made several posts to the website, including the address, details, and the Facebook profile of her unsuspecting target, Ms Ruutna.

The court heard of messages which Franks had admitted sending, including "I'm looking for the murder of a woman. I am willing to offer £1,000 pounds and I am willing to pay more once I am paid." She confessed to sending the message again after receiving no response the first time.

Another message read: "Hi I'm so sorry if I'm asking too many questions but I'm still new to this. How can I know this is all safe and I won't get caught? I need this job done so badly. Many thanks."

Franks then told the jury: "My only intention was to confirm it was a scam. I was not serious about this at all."

The court heard how she then tried to take our bitcoin money she had put in the website account wallet. However was not able to. She messaged the website she was "struggling for money right now" - however in court she claimed this was just to coax the suspected scammers.

The trial continues today.