‘Obsessed’ mum accused of using dark web to order hit on ex-colleague

A married mother of five is alleged to have used a site on the dark web called Online Killers Market to hire a hitman to kill a former colleague she was “obsessed” with, a court heard. Helen Hewlett is on trial accused of paying more than £20,000 in Bitcoin to a man she found through the website, allegedly because she wanted him to kill 50-year-old Paul Belton, the court heard.

She is charged with soliciting murder and stalking Mr Belton between January 2021 and August 2022.

The 43-year-old denies the charges.

She was arrested after police linked the dark web payments to her.

Norfolk Crown Court heard that police then logged onto her account and cancelled the hitman order, pretending to be her.

The jury was told that she did not get a refund for the deposit, which would supposedly only have been taken after Mr Belton had been killed.

However Ms Hewlett’s barrister Matthew McNiff told the court that the website was an “absolute sham”, and added that its’ claims to provide a hitman willing to kill someone was “palpable nonsense”.

During the trial, which started last week, jurors have heard that Ms Hewlett became infatuated with Mr Belton when they worked together at a Linda McCartney vegetarian food factory together in Fakenham, Norfolk.

The court heard that they did have a brief kiss and fumble in a car outside the factory and Mr Belton had immediately regretted the exchange.

But the jury heard that Hewlett had then become “obsessed” with Mr Belton, sending him sexually explicit emails containing nude photos of herself.

During the police investigation into Ms Hewlett, officers discovered she had set up a Coinbase account to buy cryptocurrency in January last year.

The court heard that to get the money for the Bitcoin she had used two loans totalling £12,000, an overdraft and her savings to pay in around £20,000 in 35 transactions, on an anonymous browser called Tor.

It is alleged that she had sent details about Mr Belton, including his name, home and work addresses and his picture to the hitman website, and transferred Bitcoin worth £20,547.

It is alleged that she then told the would-be hitmen: “It’s vital it looks like an accident.”

Detective Sergeant Mark Stratford, of the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, told the court the website claimed it could provide hitmen to shoot people or hit them with cars to make it appear deaths were accidental.

The website also included a price list in American dollars, with a sniper shooting costing between $20,000 and $60,000, an arson attack for up to $20,000 or a simple beating for $2,000.

And it said other methods of death could be arranged, including by using undetectable poison or even snake bites, and said it had “a 100 per cent job completion rate”.

It promised that hitmen would be assigned to the job as soon as fees were paid into a so-called Escrow intermediary website.

Det Sgt said there was no indication that the account on the website was a genuine Escrow account, which would have had a multi-signature wallet to authorise payment when all parties were in agreement.

He added: “We have researched some of the claims and we do not believe them to be genuine.”

Ms Hewlett denies the charges of stalking and soliciting murder.

The trial continues.

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