Factory worker tried to hire dark web hitman to kill ex-lover after they split up

The judge told the jury that Hewlett was a ‘dangerous offender’ and posed a ‘significant risk to the public’.
The judge told the jury that Hewlett posed a "significant risk to the public". Credit: Norfolk Police

A worker at a vegetarian food factory tried to hire a professional hitman on the dark web to murder her ex-lover.

Linda McCartney Foods worker Helen Hewlett took to the illicit website to recruit a killer, saying it was "vital" the murder was made to look like an accident.

Sentencing the 44-year-old from King's Lynn, the judge told the jury Hewlett was a "dangerous offender" and posed a "significant risk to the public".

Hewlett, who had previously been found guilty of soliciting murder and stalking, was sentenced to a total of 12-and-a-half years for soliciting murder and three months for stalking, to be served concurrently.

The court had heard how Hewlett became infatuated with her colleague after a brief fling, and decided to take extreme action after the relationship broke down.

Norfolk Police received information a user called ‘horses5’ had visited a site called Online Killers Market.

The post, which was traced to Hewlett, said: "Need someone killed in Norfolk, vital it is made to look like an accident, order has been placed through the order page and money is waiting in escrow, have home address, work address, work times and social media information if needed."

The job post requesting a killer

Escrow is a contractual arrangement which allows deposits to be made with an independent, licensed third party until the agreed condition, in this case a "hit", has been fulfilled.

A reply to Hewlett’s request came from a user named #Marksmen.

Hewlett had posted in her original request the victim’s work schedule and details of his social media accounts.

Despite messages from the site to say the conversations would be automatically deleted, there were still a number of messages between horses5 & the site’s admin.

They detailed a conversation between Hewlett and the admin regarding cost for a hitman to agree on a price which was paid in Bitcoin from a cryptocurrency exchange platform.

In total, Hewlett paid more than US$20,000 (around £16,000) to have her ex-lover killed.

The funds were then tracked through various unidentified accounts and found to have ended up connected to an individual in Romania.

Hewlett was arrested at her home last August. A mobile phone was recovered from a bedside cabinet in her bedroom, and matched the number provided by the currency exchange platform.

The app used to access the dark web was also downloaded on the mobile device. Hewlett also had three hitman sites bookmarked.

During interview, Hewlett admitted turning to the dark web in the first half of 2022 after the breakdown of her relationship with the victim.

He claimed this had amounted to some "flirty" messaging and sexual activity in her car.

The victim said in a statement read out in court that he had been left feeling "scared, afraid of everyone".

He said: "I'm now anxious, suffering from anxiety most days of my life now, whether it's getting to and from work, shopping, football. I find myself constantly checking my driveway and am worried if anyone that I don't recognise approaches my house."

The day after her arrest, on 13 August 2022 police went to victim’s home address and he described a long campaign of harassment by Hewlett where he had to block various email addresses so she could not contact him.

Shortly after he reported the harassment to the police, and she was issued words of advice.

Det Ch Insp Michael Pereira said: “This investigation has been complex and intensive and has involved a number of teams working together which has been critical to secure this conviction.

"This crucial joint working work helped to divert a possible ‘hit’ on the victim and prevent them coming to harm.

“We built and gathered evidence for the case identifying a woman using cryptocurrency to arrange for someone to kill the intended victim.

"Cyber-crime investigators looked at her cryptocurrency activity and worked with private industry and regional colleagues to provide evidence of payment transactions between the woman and the ‘hit man’ on the dark web. This provided crucial evidence in the investigation leading to the successful conviction today."

Of her sentence, Hewlett will serve seven-and-a-half years in prison and five years on extended licence period to determine the risk to the public by a parole panel.

She must serve a minimum of two-thirds of the custodial sentence. Hewlett was also issued with a permanent restraining order to prevent any contact with the victim or his family.