Woman jailed for attempting to hire hitman on dark web after fling ended

A Lynn woman who attempted to hire a hitman on the dark web to kill a former colleague after their fling came to an end has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

Helen Hewlett, 44, of Hawthorns in Lynn, appeared at Norwich Crown Court today after being found guilty to soliciting murder between July 1 and August 13 last year, and stalking.

Judge Katharine Moore said that Hewlett was a “dangerous offender” and posed a “significant risk to the public”.

King's Lynn woman Helen Hewlett has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. Picture: Norfolk Police
King’s Lynn woman Helen Hewlett has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. Picture: Norfolk Police

Hewlett was sentenced to a total of 12.5 years for soliciting the murder of Paul Belton and three months for stalking, to be served concurrently.

This will consist of seven and a half years to be served 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.

Mr Belton said in his statements, read out in court, that he had been left feeling “scared, afraid of everyone”and very wary of strangers.

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 court heard that on August 10 last year Norfolk Police received information that a user on the dark web called ‘horses5’ had posted a request to have someone killed on the Online Killers Market site on July 4.

The post, which was traced to Hewlett, who pleaded not guilty to the offences at an earlier hearing, was in relation to the victim and read: “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.”

Helen Hewlett on the day of her arrest
Helen Hewlett on the day of her arrest

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 on July 14. Hewlett had posted in her original request the victim’s work schedule and details of his social media accounts, adding: “Needs to be killed, vital it looks like an accident.”

Despite messages from the site to say the conversations would be automatically deleted, there were still a number of messages between horses5 and the site’s admin dated between August 1 to August 11.

King's Lynn woman Helen Hewlett has been jailed for soliciting to murder her former colleague after their fling came to an end
King’s Lynn woman Helen Hewlett has been jailed for soliciting to murder her former colleague after their fling came to an end

These relate to a conversation between Hewlett and the admin regarding cost for a hitman to agree on a price which was paid in Bitcoin from a crypto currency exchange platform.

Evidence gathered by investigators found the deposits from a UK bank account were in the name of Hewlett and she had agreed they belonged to her in police interview, and they corresponded with payments made into her crypto currency account.

The deposits amounted to a total of US$20547.47 which reflects the payment requested by horses5 quoted on the Online Killers Market.

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

Hewlett was arrested at her home on August 12 and a mobile phone was recovered from a bedside cabinet in Hewlett’s bedroom, which she confirmed in interview belonged to her 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 claims this amounted to some “flirty” messaging and sexual activity in her car. She claimed he had bullied and harassed her at work. He then raised a harassment case against her with police in 2022.

The day after her arrest – August 13 – 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, she was issued words of advice.

DCI Michael Pereira, from Specialist Digital and Serious Organised Crime for Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies, 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.

“DC Frank Jepson from the Norfolk Serious Crime Disruption Team ran the investigation working alongside the joint Norfolk and Suffolk Cybercrime Team and specialist regional colleagues who helped identify Helen Hewlett as the perpetrator in this case.

“This crucial joint working 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 crypto currency 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.

“This case really demonstrates a true team effort between serious crime disruption team, cybercrime investigators and regional colleagues to safeguard individuals from harm and tackle these types of crime which can have huge impact on the victims and their family.”