In October 2005, Bob Innes purchased the domain name for the ârentahitman.comâ website. It was the dotcom era and he was a student at a business school in North Carolina trying to advertise traffic analysis services on a website: the “hit” was a nod to clicks entering a customer’s website.
âIt was just a play on words,â he says now, when contacted by email for an interview.
Little did he know that in 2021 he would be involved in hundreds of court cases, handing people over to police for attempting to enlist the services of an assassin. This week, a woman was found guilty after attempting to have her husband killed via the Innes website.
But in 2005, when business was far from booming, Innes scrapped plans for a catchy-named network analytics company. He graduated; his friends who collaborated with him on the site have found full-time jobs.
But Innes kept 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 his inbox out of curiosity and was stunned to find a client – just not the type he was looking for.
Innes had received a message from a woman named Helen. She was stranded in Canada, had lost her passport and wanted three members of her family in the UK to be murdered for emptying her of her father’s inheritance. He did not answer.
But she persisted: sending a second email, which included names, addresses and other corroborating information.
Innes felt compelled to act. So he responded, pretending to have the ability to do what was asked of him.
“Do you still need our help? We can put you in contact with a field agent, âhe replied, stepping into the scene.
Within hours, Innes was in possession of the legal name, location and phone number of a woman he believed could seriously harm.
âI really felt that the lives of three people were in danger,â he says.
Innes denounced her and quickly discovered by detectives that “Helen” was wanted in the UK on extradition warrants on “more serious charges”.
It was then that Innes realized that his $ 9.20 website offered a little more value than he initially expected – he had just saved the lives of three people.
After Helen’s arrest in 2010, Innes returned to a relatively normal life. He never planned to be a detective, or a criminal catcher, or whatever he was doing pretending to be someone who could get assassins online. He didn’t have the training. It was just a man with a wacky website name who intervened in a crime.
âIn case you haven’t noticed, I’m not really the kill-for-hire type,â says Innes. âI’m more of the life-saving type who just happens to be in this position. “
So he made the site work, filling it with jokes and clues to show that it wasn’t the real deal. “Your point-and-click solution,” the website blurb says when you search for it on Google. The website boasts of providing services to children and assures readers that they are protected by the “Hitman Information Privacy Protection Act (HIPPA)”.
And then there is the warning message hiding on the first page. It reads: “Everyone should know by now that Dark & ââDeep canvases [sic] are not safe places to buy your evil deeds. There are many potentially dangerous sites full of viruses, and fraud is rampant. 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 even so, the calls kept coming in, leaving Innes inundated with demands, not only from those who seek to harm others, but also from those who seek to harm themselves. âI am not a crisis counselor and it is difficult to find appropriate solutions and resources for the many people who contact,â he says.
The site operates entirely out of pocket, although Innes accepts donations to cover the costs associated with its operation. He also plans to put in place an Internet safety program, to help educate about the dangers of the Internet and to push for tougher laws for people who attempt to commit violent crimes online.
Does he ever worry about installing people, just keeping the website? âThat’s a stupid question,â Innes replies. âThe site is not a ploy to attract or trick people who want to kill others. These people search the Internet to contact a hitman, âhe says – explaining that the website is not advertised anywhere. Innes also usually gives people a 24-hour “cool-down” period after trying to get it – so he can check to see if they are certain. âI’m going to ask two simple questions,â he said, âDo you still need our services? And would you like me to put you in touch with a field agent for a free consultation? If they don’t respond, he says they get a free pass. But if they do, âthen let’s go,â he says.
Ultimately, he also feels he has no choice. âAs long as these emails keep coming, I’ll keep taking action,â he says. “So far, nearly 150 lives have been saved thanks to the site and my actions.”