Police say they are investigating reports that a Toronto-area man ran a mail-order business selling a legal but potentially lethal substance used by some to kill themselves, including several young people who died in Britain.
Constable Mandeep Khatra, a spokesman for the Peel Regional Police, said late Tuesday that his force was aware of the matter and an investigation had been started. “I don’t have details but an investigation is taking place.”
The Times of London reported Tuesday that a man named Kenneth Law was behind the shipments. The newspaper said that Mr. Law’s shipments factored into up to seven deaths, including a 17-year-old boy in the United States and four British citizens in their 20s and 30s.
When contacted by The Globe and Mail, Mr. Law confirmed he was selling sodium nitrite online.
“I’m selling a legal product, okay. And what the person does with it? I have no control,” Mr. Law said. He said police have not contacted him and he is not breaking any laws.
Sodium nitrite is a chemical used to preserve meat that can be toxic if consumed in large doses. Doctors have been calling for tighter restrictions on the substance as it has been used in a number of suicides among young people.
Mr. Law denied he was targeting buyers who wanted to kill themselves and said the Times misrepresented his comments to their reporter. He said he began selling a legal food product after going bankrupt at the start of the pandemic.
Mr. Law said his online sales portal was taken offline by its hosting company after it was contacted by the British newspaper.
Canada’s Criminal Code says anyone who counsels or aids a person to die by suicide can face a 14-year prison term.
One of the British citizens who died was Neha Susan Raju, a 23-year-old woman from Guildford, Surrey, who was found dead in her bedroom with a suicide note last July.
The British coroner’s report into her death referenced how there are online communities of people discussing suicide and “no protection is afforded to vulnerable people prior to them making such purchases.”
The coroner mailed a copy of those findings to a post office box in Mississauga associated with a business run by Mr. Law. On Tuesday he declined to comment on the British coroner’s report.
Canada Post did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on whether it was aware of the Times of London report about Mr. Law.
Several police forces in Canada said they had no immediate comment on the case, with the exception of Peel Regional Police. It confirmed that had launched an investigation in the wake of the reports but would not name a suspect.
“We’re investigating the total of circumstances,” said Charles Payette, a director in the office of Peel Region Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah. “At this stage I can say we’re looking at all possible avenues to the investigation.”
With reports from Stephanie Chambers and Dustin Cook