Ontario man charged in alleged sale of substance linked to 2 Peel deaths, international probe continues

Law appeared by Zoom in a Brampton courtroom Wednesday.  (Pam Davies/CBC - image credit)
Law appeared by Zoom in a Brampton courtroom Wednesday. (Pam Davies/CBC - image credit)

A man allegedly behind the online sale of a lethal substance linked to deaths abroad has been arrested and charged after the deaths of two adults in Peel Region, police say.

Kenneth Law, 57, has been charged with two counts of counselling or aiding suicide, Peel Regional Police said in a news release on Tuesday evening.

"It is believed that the suspect distributed and marketed the substance online to target individuals at risk of self-harm," police said in the release.

Law appeared in a Brampton court Wednesday and will remain in custody until his next appearance on May 9, when the Crown's request for a bail hearing will be addressed.

Police say some 1,200 packages believed to be linked to the companies associated with Law have been shipped to over 40 countries, however it's unknown exactly how many of them contained the substance sodium nitrite.

The charges against Law follow a month-long investigation that began on March 31 after a sudden death in which the victim was suspected of consuming sodium nitrite, police said. The substance was believed to be to have been purchased by an online company owned by Law.

WATCH | Suspect sold poison to suicidal young people, newspaper report says: 

Sodium nitrite is a salt compound or food additive that is commonly used to cure meats. But the white, crystalline substance can be lethal when ingested in high concentrations, according to toxicology experts.

Peel Deputy Police Chief Marc Andrews told reporters that further investigation revealed that Law was allegedly linked to additional companies, including Imtime Cuisine, AmbuCA, Academic/ACademic, Escape Mode/escMode and ICemac.

Andrews urged the public to contact police immediately if they know someone who has received a package from any of these companies.

"The mental health and well-being of our communities is our main priority. As such, we will not tolerate criminal actions by those who prey on vulnerable individuals in our community," Andrews said.

Pam Davies/CBC
Pam Davies/CBC

Peel police say they are working with other police forces across Ontario, nationally and internationally, because they believe there could be more victims.

"It's been a really hard slog," Andrews said. "Our investigators have done a lot of legwork."

In late April, Peel police confirmed they were investigating after The Times of London reported a Mississauga, Ont., man named Kenneth Law had allegedly been selling a potentially lethal, but legal, substance online to people overseas looking to end their lives.

Reached by phone at the time, Law told CBC News the allegations in the article were "false."

Alleged links to suicides abroad

Law's charges came after families in the U.K. found loved ones had ordered sodium nitrate online and traced the website to the Greater Toronto Area.

Lee Cooper, a man from Liverpool, England, told CBC News Wednesday that his 41-year-old brother Gary was found dead last July. Cooper said British police told his family that his brother had consumed sodium nitrite that was mailed from Canada.

Submitted by Lee Cooper
Submitted by Lee Cooper

Cooper said the work of police in Canada has been "fantastic," but he wishes Law was apprehended sooner.

"There's a lot of thoughts, a lot of emotions, but I'm just glad that, although this took a long time, I'm glad it's finally happening," he said.

Cooper said his brother was "brilliant," but also had some struggles.

"He was getting help. He was slowly but surely getting there and unfortunately he found this website, this forum before he could get better, so he didn't get a chance to heal."

Families call for message board to be shuttered

Families of victims of sodium nitrite poisoning have also been calling for an online suicide message board where users have chatted about websites connected to Law to be shut down, according to posts viewed by CBC News.

CBC is not naming the message board due to its sensitive nature.

In recent days, several message board users who said they'd ordered products from Law's websites reported receiving phone calls or in-person wellness checks from local police. The users posted about being located in several countries, including Canada, the U.S., Britain, France, Finland and Japan.

Supplied by Peel Regional Police Service
Supplied by Peel Regional Police Service

Peel Regional Police Const. Sarah Patten told CBC Wednesday that safety is the force's number one priority.

"If we receive information about a potential victim outside of our jurisdiction, our Investigators will communicate with outside police agencies to check on the person's well-being," she said.

She reiterated Peel investigators are working with counterparts "across Ontario, nationally and internationally, as we believe there could be more victims."

Peel Police in contact with FBI, Britain's crime agency

Peel Police's investigation appears to have involved law enforcement in Britain.

A spokesperson for Britain's National Crime Agency told CBC News late last week, "We are in contact with our Canadian counterparts regarding this matter and liaising with local police as appropriate."

The FBI declined to comment on any potential involvement in the Ontario investigation "as a matter of longstanding policy."

CBC has seen images of the packets of sodium nitrite sold on the website connected to Law. They list the product as being "99.999% pure" but "food grade."

LISTEN | Reporter Thomas Daigle speaks about the case

While sodium nitrite is commonly used in food preparation, including for cured meats, Greg Blonder, a Boston University visiting scholar in engineering, said in an email that "typical culinary application levels" are much lower, "at the 100 parts per million level."

Online, including on the now defunct website selling sodium nitrite, Law used the "PEng" abbreviation, suggesting a professional engineering designation.

The licensing and regulating body Professional Engineers Ontario, however, told CBC News that Law is considered "not permitted to practise" as he has paid reduced fees to the organization since 2012.

If you have a news tip or important information related to this story, contact CBC News senior reporter Thomas Daigle by email: thomas.daigle@cbc.ca.

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