‘Rampantly jealous’ colleague is accused of hiring hitman on love rival

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Whitney Franks, 26, turned to the dark web after colleague Ruut Ruutna began a relationship with manager James Prest, it was said.

Father-of-two Mr Prest also had a long-term partner, jurors were told.

Franks became “rampantly jealous” of Ms Ruutna and went online to find a hitman to murder her for at least £1,000, Reading Crown Court heard.

She allegedly explored the internet underworld 117 times between August 17 and September 9, 2020, before a BBC investigative journalist spotted her posts and tipped off police, the jury was told.

Following a police investigation, Franks was arrested and Ms Ruutna was taken to a safe house.

Franks, of Milton Keynes, denies soliciting murder. Jurors were told she allegedly posted Ms Ruutna’s address and Facebook profile on the dark web.

In one message, she allegedly wrote: “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.”

Franks, Ms Ruutna and Mr Prest worked for Sports Direct in Milton Keynes.

Ms Ruutna, who was also in a relationship, said: “I knew that James was seeing Whitney but James was in a relationship with another woman and Whitney was his side-chick. He made it clear he had feelings for me and for Whitney.”

Ms Ruutna stressed she had not received any threats from Franks.

The trial continues.

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