A young woman accused of attempting to use the dark web to find a hitman to murder her parents has been released from custody on bail.
The now 26-year-old, who stood to inherit a share of $8 million if her parents died, has denied knowing anything about their alleged attempted murder in a case that is expected to take a significant amount of time to work its way through the courts.
Court documents allege that in September 2020, the woman went into her parents’ home when they were away and transferred $15,000 from her mother’s bank account to a shared account, then on to her own.
Police alleged on 24 September the woman bought $6000-worth of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and went onto a dark-web site known as The Sinaloa Cartel Marketplace, which advertised services including “murder for hire”.
On the site, prices for “accidental murder” were reportedly advertised for “as low as $7000”, and users could submit a “job” request and upload a photo of an intended target.
Police allege the woman created an account and talked to site administrator “Juan”.
“Having trouble using the shop function to submit job enquiry so will do it here. Willing to pay $20,000AUD to have this done as soon as possible. 2 individuals, death by accident if at all possible,” she is alleged to have said.
She then allegedly provided the names of her parents and their home address, adding: “I require this job to be done ASAP.”
Police said “Juan” agreed to her enquiry and she sent him about $6000-worth of Bitcoin, but then stopped responding to his requests to send the rest of the $20,000.
According to ACT Policing, in October 2020, a journalist based in the United Kingdom contacted them saying he had found evidence of someone looking to murder the woman’s parents while researching the dark web.
That same day police interviewed the two parents, who told police that their will stated if they died their children would be entitled to an equal share of their estate, estimated to be worth $8 million.
The journalist’s production company told police ‘The Sinaloa Cartel Marketplace’ was likely a fraudulent site that took Bitcoin from customers and did not deliver any services in return.
On 7 December 2020, police searched the woman’s home. She denied knowing anything about the alleged attempted murder of her parents, nor anything about Bitcoin or the dark web. She was arrested that day.
Both the woman and her parents cannot be named for legal reasons. She has pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted murder, two counts of inciting murder, as well as single counts of theft and burglary.
The woman appeared in court on Tuesday (27 April) via audio-visual link and successfully applied for bail in the ACT Magistrates Court.
It is the second time she has applied to be released from jail as she has been held in custody since her arrest.
In court, prosecutor Katie McCann said it was a “fairly complex investigation” related to Bitcoin and dark web transactions. She believed there would be a significant delay in obtaining the relevant material, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The woman’s lawyer, Tom Taylor of McKenna Taylor, agreed there would be a delay.
“We’re in this territory where we just don’t know how long it’s going to take for this material to come in,” he said.
Ms McCann said requests for assistance had been made with two different countries, the most important of which was to the United Kingdom, and it was being prioritised and rushed through as quickly as possible.
Magistrate Jane Campbell said “extensive” proposed bail conditions had been supplied to the court, which the prosecution believed would meet any risks or concerns, and she granted bail on those conditions.
The woman’s case will next appear before the courts for a pre-hearing mention on 18 May. She has been excused from appearing in person if legally represented.