Four years after police first alleged that hundreds of suspects had bought child pornography from a Toronto firm, fallout from the investigation is still rippling, with the suicide this week of a Quebec man who poisoned himself in a courtroom rather than go behind bars.
Journalists at the Quebec City courthouse saw the convicted defendant, Nicolas Boudreau, collapse on Wednesday morning after he pulled a small flask from a pocket and gulped its content right after Quebec Court Justice Christian Boulet sentenced him to six months in jail.
The courtroom was evacuated while constables tried to resuscitate the 52-year-old Mr. Boudreau. He died the next day in hospital.
Mr. Boudreau, a former junior-college chemistry teacher and soccer coach, is the fourth person known to have killed himself after being identified in connection with Project Spade.
A massive three-year investigation launched in 2010 by Toronto police, Spade targeted Azov Films, a Toronto-based company that sold images of nude Eastern European boys, under the guise of being naturist videos.
Investigators seized Azov's clients list and 348 suspects were arrested in dozens of countries around the world.
Three suspects took their lives in 2014 when their names were linked to Azov material.
Ryan Loskarn, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, was found dead in January in the basement of his parents' Maryland home. "I found myself drawn to videos that matched my own childhood abuse," he said in his suicide note.
In September in Britain, Martin Goldberg, a deputy head teacher at a school in Essex, killed himself in his garage. Two months later, Charles Richardson, a Church of England vicar, jumped off cliffs near Dover before he was to report to police.
The case also created a political scandal in Germany, forcing the resignation of one of Chancellor Angela Merkel's senior cabinet ministers. Agriculture Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich had to step down after allegations that, while he was interior minister, he tipped off other politicians that a rising star of the Social Democrat Party, Sebastian Edathy, had been targeted by Project Spade.
About 100 people were arrested in Canada in connection with the Azov case, most of them in Ontario and Quebec.
Mr. Boudreau had been charged in March, 2013, eight months before Toronto police went public. However, it was only last year that he pleaded guilty.
According to reports in Le Soleil and Journal de Québec, Mr. Boudreau, who was single, went on welfare after he was dismissed from his teaching post.
Police found in his residence 125 incriminating DVDs, including five purchased from Azov, Le Soleil reported.
Assessed by a probation officer for his presentencing report, Mr. Boudreau said he had vomited the first time he saw child pornography but eventually looked at it daily.
He argued that it was better than molesting children in person.
He told an acquaintance that he was very scared of being attacked if he was to be detained, according to Journal de Québec.
His defence lawyer had suggested a sentence of 90 days, served intermittently, with community service. The Crown wanted 18 to 20 months in custody.
The morning of his sentencing, on Wednesday, Mr. Boudreau showed up without luggage for a possible jailing. No one else but lawyers and journalists were present.