At some point in our lives, most of us have done something to upset someone.
That person may politely ask you not to do it again, or they may decide life is too short and just let it go.
If you’re lucky, they don’t pay killers thousands of pounds to kill you.
In 2018, at the age of 19, Alexis received a call from the police in her hometown in the United States.
The officer told her to come to the station immediately for a conversation that would change her life forever.
“They asked me if I had p**** attacked anyone, and I said ‘no, I don’t think so’ … and then they said someone paid a fortune to attack me.”
Alexis, understandably we didn’t report her last name to protect her identity, she wondered why anyone would want to kill her, and most importantly – who did she know had access to the killer?
However, as it turns out, whoever it is doesn’t need to work hard to make connections with the mafia or violent street gangs.
Finding the killer is obviously much easier than that.
The person simply fires up their laptop and visits a dangerous online space where criminals can remain anonymous because they operate outside the law.
It’s called the “Darknet”.
The Internet’s hidden weaknesses allow people to buy and sell drugs and weapons, watch illegal pornography, and even hire hackers to attack individuals or businesses.
There’s also a disturbing number of apparent “murder for hire” sites offering the services of hitmen in exchange for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
An anonymous darknet user logged onto a website called Camorra Hitman and made a bitcoin transaction worth $5,770 (about £4,800) to kidnap and murder Alexis.
Camorra Hitman is no longer in operation, but many websites claiming to offer the same service are still operating on the dark web.
“Contract Murder From $15,000”
Sky News contacted several of these sites to see if they would arrange for someone to be interviewed to discuss their operations.
None of the sites responded.
Some of these sites display images of people who appear to have been killed in knife attacks or traffic accidents. It’s unclear whether the photos are real or actually link to the services the site claims to offer.
One site, which we have chosen not to name, claims to offer “contract murder” from $15,000 (£12,600) and “assault” from $2,000 (£1,600).
Dark web users give personal details of people they want to kill
Chris Monteiro, a hacker and dark web vigilante based in the UK, has access to transactions between buyers and sellers on these sites.
He then passed the information on to law enforcement agencies in the UK and abroad.
In fact, it was Mr. Monteiro who reported the attack on Alexis to US police.
“Over the years, I’ve come across thousands of legitimate murder plots,” he said.
“People would go to these sites and provide details of the person they wanted to kill, like where they worked, where they lived and how much they were willing to pay.”
“I have a knife on me”
Over the years, however, Mr Monteiro discovered that the websites he hacked were not what they seemed.
The sites he visited were not real – all investigations into Murder for Hire sites found them to be fake.
Thankfully for Alexis, that includes the one her would-be perpetrator used.
But it doesn’t matter if the site is real or someone used it to end her life.
“At first I was a little bit scared…I had pepper spray on me. I had a knife on me. I had a board in my car in case someone attacked me. So life was very different.”
Read more about the dark web:
Global darknet drug network assets raided in North East and Surrey
Dark web crackdown on opioid traffickers leads to 179 arrests worldwide
Law enforcement officers ‘not doing enough’
Police referred the investigation to the FBI, which closed the case in 2019 and told her that “the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute.”
The man who once tried to kill Alexis still lives free today.
Both Mr. Alexis and Mr. Monteiro accused law enforcement of doing little to address the problems surrounding the sites.
Asked what they were doing to tackle the problem, the UK’s National Crime Agency told the Sky News Daily podcast in a statement: “The National Crime Agency and its partners around the world work closely to weed out criminals. locations, and often identify and bring individuals to justice for serious organized crime on the dark web—from sharing indecent images of children to delivering Class A drugs.”
Regardless of the legality of “murder for hire” sites, that doesn’t mean dangerous people won’t pay them to kill.
When it comes to her own murder-for-hire, Alexis said she’s now moving on with her life.
“I’m trying to really grow as a person…at this point, it’s better to move on than to dwell on it and drag yourself down.”
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The Dark Web: Exploring ‘Murder for Hire’ Sites
Podcast Producers: Soila Apparicio and Tom Gillespie
Daily Podcast Editor: Philly Beaumont