Several police forces worldwide are investigating deaths allegedly linked to a Canadian man accused of selling a lethal substance online to those at risk of self-harm.
Investigators have said Kenneth Law is accused of sending at least 1,200 packages to people in more than 40 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Italy.
Law faces 14 charges in Canada alone, and investigations within the country and around the world are ongoing.
Here is what we know so far.
Law is a 57-year-old former chef who lives in Mississauga, Ont., which is adjacent to Toronto.
The story begins in October 2022, when a U.K. coroner’s report, which was looking into the April death by suicide of a woman in Surrey, listed a postal box in Mississauga and website linked to a Canadian man.
Fast-forward to this March, Peel Regional Police, which police the regions of Mississauga and neighbouring Brampton, Ont., announced an investigation into the sudden death of a resident believed to have consumed a chemical substance.
The following month, the Times of London published an investigation into Law. He was arrested and charged by Peel Regional Police in May.
At the time, Law was charged with two counts of counselling or aiding suicide. Law is accused of selling chemical substances online to people potentially at risk of self-harm.
Police said the first of the two people identified in Peel Region died at the end of March after they consumed a substance allegedly bought from an online company owned by Law. Investigators said they later learned of the second death in Peel.
Ontario Provincial Police later sent out an alert to the public to report any packages received from five companies they allege are connected to Law: Academic, AmbuCA, ICemac, Escape Mode and Imtime Cuisine.
Imtime Cuisine was identified as the website linked to the death by suicide of the woman in Surrey, U.K., in April 2022.
The chemical substance has since been identified as sodium nitrite.
Sodium nitrite is a white, crystalline substance used as a food additive and typically found in processed meats.
Police said intentional consumption of excessive amounts of sodium nitrite can reduce oxygen levels, impair breathing and result in death.
York Regional Police Insp. Simon James told reporters Tuesday it’s believed Law was operating the websites as of approximately late 2020.
He would not elaborate on identifying the victims involved due to the active investigation, but said the victims in Ontario were both male and female and between the ages of 16 and 36.
Investigators have warned individuals to be alert for any packaging or labels identifying sodium nitrite, including hoods and/or masks that could be used for self-harm.
James encouraged anyone who has bought from companies connected to Law, or knows someone who has, to contact police.
In Ontario, 11 police forces formed a major joint operation to investigate Law.
On Tuesday, police laid 12 new charges against Law for aiding and counselling suicide in deaths from across the province.
The new charges were from the following Ontario regions: four in Toronto, one more in Peel Region, three in York Region, one in Durham Region, one in London, one in Thunder Bay and one in Waterloo Region.
Meanwhile, British police are investigating the deaths of 88 people in the U.K. allegedly linked to Law.
Britain’s National Crime Agency said it has identified 232 people in the U.K. who bought products from the websites in the two years until April, 88 of whom had died.
The agency said on Aug. 25 that it was investigating whether any crimes have been committed, but that “at this early stage there are no confirmed links between the items purchased from the websites and cause of death in any of these cases.”
The New Zealand Coroners Court also said it has received reports of deaths suspected to be linked to Law. The Coroners Court said it will follow its usual process in investigating the New Zealand deaths and provide no further information at this time.
Authorities in the United States, Italy and Australia also have launched investigations.
This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, support is available 24/7 by calling Talk Suicide Canada (1-833-456-4566) or, for residents of Quebec, 1 866 APPELLE (1-866-277-3553). The U.S. suicide and crisis lifeline is available by calling or texting 988. There is also an online chat at 988lifeline.org. In the U.K., the Samaritans can be reached at 116 123 or http://www.samaritans.org.
— with files from Global News and The Canadian Press
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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