An investigation has been launched into the deaths of 88 people in the UK who bought substances from Canadian websites targeted at suicidal individuals.
It comes after Kenneth Law, 57, was arrested in May and charged in Ontario on two counts of counselling and aiding suicide.
Officers said they believed the Canadian national “distributed and marketed [a] substance online to target individuals at risk of self-harm”.
The investigation has since been expanded and now the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has revealed it has identified 232 people in the UK who bought items from the Canadian websites in the two years up to April 2023.
Of those, 88 died.
A spokesperson cautioned that “at this early stage” it could not be confirmed that the website purchases caused any of the deaths – but said each case was now being investigated.
Peel Regional Police in Ontario said that the chemical sold online was “a white, crystalline substance” sometimes used in food processing which can “reduce oxygen-levels, impair breathing and can result in death” if consumed in sufficient amounts.
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Reports say Law is suspected of sending 1,200 packages to addresses in 40 countries, with police investigations also underway in the US, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.
NCA deputy director, Craig Turner, said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the loved ones of those who have died. They are being supported by specially trained officers from police forces.
“In consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, the NCA has taken the decision to conduct an investigation into potential criminal offences committed in the UK. This operation is underway.”
Law is due to next appear in court in Ontario on Friday, according to local media.
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK.