A man who accidentally started an assassin hiring website

A man who accidentally started an assassin hiring website

In October 2005, Bob Innes bought the website domain name “rentahitman.com.” It was the dotcom era and he was a business school student in North Carolina trying to advertise website traffic analysis services: the “hit” was a nod to clicks coming in on a client’s website.

“It was simply a play on words,” he says now, when contacted via email for an interview.

Little did he know that come 2021, he would be involved in hundreds of legal cases, handing people to the police for trying to solicit assassin services. This week, one woman was found guilty, after trying to have her husband killed through Innes’ website.

But in 2005, with business far from booming, Innes moved on from his plans for a network analysis business with a catchy name. He graduated; his friends who collaborated with him on the site found full-time jobs.

But Innes held on to the domain name in the hopes that someone might buy it one day.

No one bought the site, and it continued to exist in the background of Innes’ life. Then, in 2010, he returned to its inbox out of curiosity and was stunned to find a client – just not the type he had been looking for.

Innes had received a message from a woman named Helen. She was stranded in Canada, had lost her passport, and wanted three family members in the UK murdered for screwing her out of her father’s inheritance. He didn’t respond.

But she persisted: sending a second email, which included names, addresses and other corroborating information.

Innes felt compelled to act. So he responded, feigning to have the capability to do what was being asked of him.

“Do you still require our assistance? We can place you in contact with a Field Operative,” he replied, stepping into character.

Within hours, Innes was in possession of the legal name, location, and phone number of a woman he thought was capable of serious harm.

“I truly felt that three people’s lives were in jeopardy,” he says.

Innes turned her in, and soon found out from detectives that ‘Helen’ was wanted in the UK on extraditable warrants for “more serious charges”.

It was at this point Innes realized his $9.20 website provided a little more value than he’d initially bargained for: he had just saved the lives of three people.

After Helen’s arrest in 2010, Innes went back to a relatively normal life. He never planned on being a detective, or a criminal catcher, or whatever it was that he was doing when posing to be a person who could procure assassins online. He didn’t have the training. He was just a man with a wacky website name who happened to intervene in a crime.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not really a murder-for-hire type of guy,” Innes says. “I’m more of a save-a-life type who just happened to be in this position by way of a fluke.”

So he kept the site running, filling it with jokes and clues to show it wasn’t the real deal. “Your point and click solution,” the blurb for the website says when you search for it on Google. The website boasts providing services to children, and assures readers they are protected by the “Hitman Information Privacy Protection Act (HIPPA)”.

And then there’s the warning message that lurks on the front page. It reads: “Everyone should know by now that the Dark & Deep webs [sic] are not safe places to shop for your nefarious deeds. There are lots of potentially dangerous sites, ripe with viruses, and fraud runs rampant there. Your privacy is NOT guaranteed and your information could be leaked to thousands of less than stellar sites, including law enforcement, and that’s no fun!”

But still, the appeals just kept on coming, leaving Innes swamped with requests , not just from those looking to harm others, but also those looking to harm themselves. “I’m not a crisis counsellor and it’s hard to find proper solutions and resources for many who reach out,” he says.

The site runs completely out of pocket, although Innes accepts donations to cover the costs associated with running it. He also plans to set up an internet safety program, to help educate on the dangers of the internet and to lobby for tougher laws for people who try to commit violent crimes online.

Does he ever worry that he is setting people up, just by keeping the website? “This is a stupid question,” Innes responds. “The site is not a ploy to lure or dupe people who want to have others killed. These people search the internet to contact a hitman,” he says – explaining that the website is not advertised anywhere. Innes also typically gives people a “cooling off” period of 24 hours after they try to procure him – for him to ascertain whether they are certain. “I’ll ask two simple questions,” he says: “Do you still require our services? And would you like me to place you in contact with a field operative for a free consultation?” If they don’t answer, he says they get a free pass. But if they do “then it’s game on,” he says.

Ultimately, he also feels he has no choice. “As long as these emails keep coming in, I will continue to act,” he says. “So far, nearly 150 lives have been saved as a direct result of the site and my actions.”

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“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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