A tip-off from a British journalist working for the BBC led to the arrest of an Australian woman who allegedly used the dark web to hire a contract killer to murder her parents, police say.
The 26-year-old Canberra woman is accused of agreeing to pay $20,000 to kill her parents, who are reportedly prominent businesspeople in the Australian Capital Territory.
The motivation for the alleged attempted murders was financial gain, and police say about $6,000 of the total $20,000 (£11,000) bounty was paid before the woman’s arrest on Monday.
ACT Policing were alerted to the alleged murder plot in October by a journalist in the UK who was researching the dark web for an investigative series. The journalist was working for the production company This is Novel, which had been commissioned by the BBC to conduct the work, according to police.
The journalist stumbled on to evidence suggesting an individual had paid online for the murder of two people in Australia.
“We believe that the woman sought out the website herself and she made arrangements on that site, contacting somebody over the dark web, and making the payment,” Acting Sgt Beth McMullen said.
The dark web “killer”, it turned out, was fraudulent.
But police remained concerned about the daughter’s state of mind and what she “might be looking at doing in future”.
Police took steps to ensure the safety of the parents, began tracking the daughter’s internet activity and forensically examined her bank records.
The investigation culminated in a search warrant executed at a home in the Canberra suburb of Fadden on Monday. Police seized computers and arrested the woman, who appeared in local courts on Tuesday.
She was charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of inciting murder, and charges of burglary and theft. She did not apply for bail in the ACT magistrates court, according to local media reports, and was remanded in custody until later this month.
“This was certainly an unusual matter for the ACT but we have seen an increase in crime online, and certainly crime involving the dark web,” McMullen said.
The parents were unaware of the alleged plot, police say.
“They cooperated fully with us to provide information in order for the investigation to be resolved as soon as possible … the victims were very shocked and understandably concerned about the information that police had obtained,” McMullen said.
No further charges are expected to be laid, though police say they are still investigating the website operator.
The website is no longer active.
“We do not at this time know where the website is based, but certainly inquiries are ongoing in relation to that,” she said.
The daughter’s identity has been suppressed to protect the anonymity of her parents.