Jury goes out to make decision on Milton Keynes bizarre love triangle hitman case

A jury considering whether a Sports Direct employee tried to hire a hitman to murder her love rival, was asked today to decide whether she actually intended to carry out the plot.

By Sally Murrer
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 2:41 pm

Despite a confession from 26-year-old defendant Whitney Franks that she repeatedly sent messages on the dark web looking for a hitman to kill 29-year-old Rutt Ruutna, her barrister argued that the evidence left the jury with doubts about her guilt.

Franks, from Two Mile Ash, has been on trial for four days, accused of soliciting to murder fellow Sports Direct employee Ms Ruutna.

Ms Ruutna who was having an affair with James Prest, their general manager at Sports Direct in Central Milton Keynes. Franks was also romantically involved with dad-of-two Mr Prest, who had a long term partner as well at the time.

Whitney Franks

Franks denies the charge against her.

The jury at Reading Crown Court heard that that Franks had posted the address and Facebook profile of her victim, Ms Ruutna on the dark web and had offered to pay £1,000 in BitCoin currency to have her killed.

However, she told the jury in evidence that she never meant to harm Ms Ruutna and that her decision to post on the dark web was to see if the site was a scam, after she watched numerous true crime documentaries while furloughed in lockdown, which sparked her curiosity.

The court heard evidence from Mr Prest, the man at the heart of the love triangle as well as Rutt Ruutna, who told the jury of the complex affairs.

James Prest was having an affair with both co-workers

Prosecutor Andrew Copeland told the jury in his summing up today: "How much curiosity can one person have? Yesterday she said as soon as the website asked about money, she knew it was a scam. Then why didn't she immediately pull her money?

"I accept that when she went onto the dark web she may have not formed the intent at that stage but when she found the website and instead of selecting to buy drugs or guns or bullets, she selected murder.

"Instead of giving fake details, she gave the specific details of the address and Facebook profile of her love rival. It may have started off as just looking, but what she was doing in her mind was deadly serious."

Defending, James McCrindell said: "The BBC journalist who raised concerns with the police about the dark web posting, in his opinion concluded the site was a scam and what had happened was the person operating the website pocketed the money in BitCoin.

"It is quite a coincidence that Ms Franks has said - all along - that she wanted to see if the website was actually a scam. James Prest said she was a good person and Rutt Ruutna said she wasn't a bad person. I say it is not possible for you the jury to be sure of her intent."

After summarising the case in full, Judge Paul Dugdale sent the jury of two women and 10 men out to consider their verdict shortly after midday today.