Canadian ‘poison seller’ Kenneth Law faces multiple murder charges

Kenneth Law
Kenneth Law, from Toronto, faces charges relating to 14 deaths in Canada but police believe there may be many more victims (Image: Peel Regional Police)

A Canadian man accused of supplying a poisonous chemical to people who died by suicide is facing multiple murder charges.

Police in Canada have charged Kenneth Law, a 57-year-old former chef, with 14 counts of second-degree murder.

Mr Law was previously charged with aiding suicide in relation to deaths of people who had allegedly purchased the lethal chemical from him online.

British detectives have also linked Mr Law to 90 deaths in the UK.

In an emailed statement to the BBC, Mr Law’s lawyer, Matthew Gourlay, said his client intended to plead not guilty to the charges.

The murder charges announced by police on Tuesday mark an escalation in the prosecution of Mr Law in Canada, who has been the subject of a “very active and very complex” investigation involving 11 police agencies in the country’s largest province, Ontario.

Speaking on behalf of the multijurisdictional investigation, Simon James, an inspector with York Regional Police, said the new murder charges were related to a total of 14 victims in Ontario.

Mr James said that “evidence has come in that supports the charge of second-degree murder”, but declined to add further details as the investigation was ongoing.

Along with the murder charges, Mr Law faces 14 counts of aiding and counselling suicide in connection to the same Ontario deaths, for a total of 28 charges. He faces imprisonment for life if he is found guilty of second-degree murder under Canadian law.

Mr Law, who remains in police custody, is also the subject of probes by police agencies in other parts of Canada and countries, including the UK.

Mr James said police in Ontario are cooperating with those international investigations.

Canadian detectives said Mr Law had run a number of websites offering equipment and substances to help people end their lives. Police believe he may have sent more than 1,200 parcels containing lethal substances to around 40 countries.

He was first arrested and charged in May with counselling or aiding suicide. In August, police brought additional counts against him, all linked to deaths that occurred in Ontario.

The ages of the people who died ranged from 16 to 36. Mr James said more than one victim was under the age of 18.

Many of Mr Law’s alleged victims were also based in the UK. There, the National Crime Agency (NCA) in London said Mr Law was known to have sent packages to 272 people.

The NCA, which is now investigating if any criminal offences were committed in the UK, said 90 of those recipients later died, though they could not confirm that a toxic substance was the direct cause of each death.

One individual died after police had carried out welfare checks on all the addresses which received a parcel, the agency added.

A spokesman for the NCA said: “This investigation will explore viable leads that help us identify evidence of crimes committed in the UK or against its citizens.”

The news of the charges were welcomed by David Parfett, whose 22-year-old son Tom bought the chemical from Mr Law and ended his life in October 2021.

“It sends a signal to other people who encourage vulnerable people to self harm and provide suicide kits that they’re not beyond the law,” Mr Parfett told the BBC.

And he said there are wider lessons for the authorities on what more needs to be done to protect people online.

“Actions like encouraging others to kill themselves that would be prosecuted in real life are tolerated online. That has to stop,” he said.

While this is a significant moment for many of the victims’ families, some said they still have outstanding concerns.

They worry there are other sellers out there who have taken Mr Law’s place and are still selling the poisonous chemical he allegedly supplied. Many also feel the UK government has not done enough to stop this type of crime.

Mr James of York Regional Police said one major challenge is that some of the websites used by Mr Law are based in countries outside of Canada, where Canadian law does not apply.

Families of victims said they also want action taken against those who set up and run a pro-suicide forum which encourages and instruct the vulnerable how to die. The BBC reported on the forum in October and even confronted one of its founders, who claimed he is no longer involved.

Many of the dead found out about Mr Law and other sellers through the forum, which the BBC is not going to name.

They followed detailed instructions posted there on how to end their lives.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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