12 new charges against Kenneth Law, accused of selling deadly substance

Files – Barrie 360

By Jordan Omstead and Fakiha Baig in Mississauga

An Ontario man accused of sending a lethal substance to those at risk of self harm was charged in 12 new deaths on Tuesday as police outlined the growing scope of what has become an international investigation. 

Kenneth Law now faces 14 counts in total of counselling and aiding suicide, police said, with the cases involving deaths across Ontario. 

Police allege the 57-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., operated several websites starting in late 2020 that were used to sell sodium nitrite and other items that can be used for self harm. Investigators have said Law allegedly sent at least 1,200 packages to people in more than 40 countries. 

York Regional Police Insp. Simon James, the case manager of a multi-jurisdictional probe, said the investigation into Law remains “very active and very complex.”

“Let us be clear: we will not tolerate criminal actions by those who prey on vulnerable individuals in our communities,” he said at a news conference in Mississauga on Tuesday.

“It’s a very difficult case for police to investigate but my heart goes out to the family members of those who we have lost.” 

There are 11 Ontario police forces involved in a joint investigation including Barrie police.

Law was arrested in May after Peel Regional Police investigated two local deaths in the region west of Toronto. 

James said Law allegedly owned and operated at least five websites – most of which have been removed from the public domain – and sold sodium nitrite, a common food preservative that’s deadly at high levels, as well as masks and hoods, to those at risk of self-harm. 

The charges announced Tuesday involved Ontario residents between the ages of 16 and 36 who had died in communities across the province, as far north as Thunder Bay and as far southwest as London, Ont., police said.  

Police said they believe around 160 packages were allegedly sent by Law to addresses in Canada.

The update from Ontario police came after British police revealed last week they had identified 232 people in the U.K., 88 of whom had died, who bought products from Canadian-based websites allegedly linked to Law.

Britain’s National Crime Agency said it was investigating whether any crimes had been committed in the U.K., but that “at this early stage there are no confirmed links between the items purchased from the websites and cause of death in any of these cases.”

Authorities in the United States, Italy, Australia and New Zealand have all also announced their own investigations.

Several Canadian police forces outside Ontario are also reviewing past sudden deaths in light of the allegations against Law. 

Of the charges Ontario police announced Tuesday, four were in Toronto, one was in the Peel Region, three were in the York Region, one was in the Durham Region, one was in London, Ont., one was in Thunder Bay, Ont., and one was in the Waterloo region. 

The Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario had said it was helping police in their investigations into Law.

There have been at least 37 deaths due to sodium nitrite since 2019, a spokeswoman for the coroner’s office said. More than 90 per cent of those deaths were deemed suicides.

Health Canada has said it “has been made aware of reports of people intentionally ingesting sodium nitrate or nitrite with the intent of self-harm and is taking action to address this concerning trend.”

with files from Jordan Omstead. 

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, support is available 24/7 by calling Talk Suicide Canada (1-833-456-4566) or, for residents of Quebec, 1 866 APPELLE (1-866-277-3553).

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 29, 2023.