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Ontario man accused of selling sodium nitrite for suicide promised to ‘reflect’ on family’s pain in 2022: emails

Editor’s note: If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health there are a number of ways to get help, including by calling Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566. A list of local crisis centres is also available here.

A distraught sister intent on getting answers about her brother’s death demanded Kenneth Law change how he sells his products to people trying to commit suicide, according to e-mail exchanges viewed by CTV News Toronto.

While Law offered his condolences and promised to reflect on Hollie Arnavut’s concerns, deaths allegedly kept coming in the year after that email exchange, according to court documents.

“It was a kick in the guts,” Arnavut told CTV News Toronto in an interview from the U.K., recalling the strange e-mail exchange with the man now charged with two counts of aiding and abetting suicide in Mississauga, and facing investigations or accusations from grieving families in nine more deaths.

Arnavut said she looked up to her big brother, 38-year-old Michael Dunham, and called him a “protector who would always look out for me.”

But towards the end of his life, he was in a vulnerable place, facing depression and really struggling, she said. He died in 2021. Police in the Isle of Wight dismissed it as death by suicide.

Arnavut did not accept their perspective and kept digging. She looked at some screenshots Dunham had sent a friend that contained the words “Imtime Cuisine.”

Imtime Cuisine is one of seven brands or companies that Peel Regional Police warned the public about in its investigation of Law, alleging he sent some 1,200 packages of legal but lethal sodium nitrite to 40 countries.

“Something didn’t sit right. I was on the phone [with] my sister, and both of us started to look into it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right you can Google that, and it’s on the internet. Anyone of any age could come across the site, which is quite alarming.”

By April 2022, Arnavut was corresponding with a man called Kenneth Law over e-mail. At first, Law wouldn’t confirm anything, saying, “We generally don’t disclose our customers as per the terms of our agreement.”

But Arnavut persisted, saying, “The reason I’ve emailed you is a product my brother bought from your site resulted in his death. My brother was on online suicide forums, which led him to buy sodium nitrite off your website. From person to person, I think maybe you should have more regulations for people buying it from your site.

“Look, I’m not blaming you or anyone, my brother wasn’t in the right frame of mind. He was in a dark place. I just wouldn’t want anyone else’s family going through this as I’ve been in so much pain,” Arnavut wrote.

In response, Law wrote, “I would like to extend my sincerest condolences for your family’s great loss. Thank you for your suggestions. I’ll reflect upon them.”

In a further email, Law said, “If you feel comfortable, I would like to better understand the circumstances behind your brother’s passing. For example, was his ailment physical or psychological?”

The email exchange happened more than a year ago. Law has been charged with aiding and abetting two deaths that happened on or about March 15, 2023, with several potentially connected deaths occurring after Arnavut asked him to change his ways.

Police in Toronto and York tell CTV News Toronto they are reviewing sudden deaths in their jurisdictions, in conjunction with Peel police.

Halton and Halifax police say they have carried out wellness checks. Durham Regional Police (DRPS) said it is working with the office of the chief coroner to review sudden death investigations where sodium nitrite was a factor, and have zeroed in on one possible death.

“DRPS can confirm that one case has been identified from 2022, and we will be collaborating with Peel Regional Police to determine if it is linked to the Kenneth Law investigation,” a spokesperson said.

CTV News Toronto has learned of deaths in Michigan, Colorado, Italy and five in the United Kingdom, including the family of a 21-year-old who did not want to identify their loved one but also believe Law was connected to the death.

Some of the victims who died by suicide following the consumption of sodium nitrite, whose deaths are believed to be connected to Kenneth Law.

Many of the victims CTV News Toronto has tracked were in their 20s. Anthony Jones, who lived near Detroit, was 17.

Since 2020, coroners or medical examiners across Canada have said at least 48 deaths are due to sodium nitrite – something that was very rare just years before that. Those deaths are not necessarily linked to Law.

Law appeared in a Brampton courthouse by video link, but does not have a lawyer yet. The judge put the case over to Monday.

He has denied the charges and has said people who order his products are responsible for their actions. He is innocent until proven guilty.

Most families have said their loved one was troubled and came across the opportunity to order sodium nitrite through a pro-suicide website.

“It is beyond imagination for those of us who work in this field that this is available,” said Camille Quenneville of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Italy, Australia and Germany have banned the site, which CTV News Toronto is choosing not to name. Quenneville said the Canadian government should follow suit.

“It was exceptionally concerning to think that this was something individuals would be driven to online,” she said.

Arnavut said she regrets telling Law she does not blame him for her brother’s death. She said she wants those involved in her brother’s case to face justice.

“We will never be the same again. We’ll never see the world in the same way either,” Arnavut said. Top Stories

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