Kenneth Law to face at least 1 upgraded 1st-degree murder chargeCBC news has confirmed that accused poison seller Kenneth Law will face at least one upgraded first-degree murder charge. Law already faces second-degree murder charges, as well as charges for allegedly abetting or counselling suicide, in connection to 14 deaths in Ontario. According to CBC’s own tally, Law is suspected of being linked to 124 deaths in Canada, the United States, Britain, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand and elsewhere.
Alleged poison seller Kenneth Law will face multiple first-degree murder charges in connection with deaths in Ontario, CBC News has learned.
His lawyer, Matthew Gourlay, confirmed on Friday that the 14 counts of second-degree murder his client was facing will all be upgraded.
Law is also charged with 14 counts of counselling or aiding suicide. All 28 charges are linked to the same 14 deaths across Ontario.
Gourlay told CBC his client would be pleading not guilty.
Toronto-area police have alleged Law, 58, operated websites selling a potentially lethal substance to clients at risk of self-harm. According to a tally by CBC News, his products are suspected of being connected to at least 124 deaths worldwide — most of them in the United Kingdom.
Canadian authorities recently shared new intelligence with British investigators suggesting the Ontario man had sent out more packages containing suicide paraphernalia than initially thought.
It’s not clear what prompted authorities to upgrade the murder charges. Law is set to appear in court in Newmarket, Ont. on Tuesday. Peel Regional Police referred questions to Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General. A ministry spokesperson did not immediately provide a response to emailed questions from CBC.
York Regional Police Insp. Simon James, who co-ordinates the sprawling Ontario investigation, said in December the second-degree murder charges stemmed from unspecified evidence that had come to light.
“We are constantly assessing evidence,” he said.
According to the Criminal Code, a first-degree murder is a homicide that’s both planned and deliberate. A contract killing — when someone pays to order a death — is considered first-degree murder. The lesser charge of second-degree murder generally applies when the killing is deliberate but no planning was involved.
First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
Before the charges were upgraded, the parents of one of Law’s alleged victims told CBC they hope the perpetrator will feel “the full weight of the law.”
Law has previously denied wrongdoing.
Kenneth Law, seen in an undated photo released by Peel Regional Police, was arrested last May. He is accused of operating a website selling a potentially lethal substance linked to dozens of deaths worldwide. (Peel Regional Police)Law, a former hotel cook, has been in custody since his arrest in Mississauga, Ont., last May. Around that time, Interpol distributed the names and addresses of Law’s customers — provided by Canadian investigators — for authorities to carry out wellness checks in the U.S., France, Malta, Australia and elsewhere.
The U.K.’s National Crime Agency was initially informed of 272 buyers in Britain but recently learned of 16 further purchases made before Law’s arrest. In all, 93 Britons are now believed to have died after placing an order from Law’s websites.
WATCH | Toronto-area police reveal new details in alleged poison seller case:
New evidence against alleged poison seller Kenneth Law, police sayPolice in the Toronto area say they have new evidence against alleged poison seller Kenneth Law that warrants 14 second-degree murder charges in addition to the previous charges of counselling or aiding suicide.
Ontario’s Peel Regional Police declined to say how investigators learned of the additional buyers. The provincial task force handling the case has previously said Law was believed to have sent 1,200 packages to more than 40 countries, and roughly 160 to Canadian addresses.
Peel police would not provide updated figures or further details, Const. Donna Carlson said Thursday, “in order to protect the integrity of this complex, multi-jurisdictional investigation.”
B.C. RCMP, as well as police in Montreal, Calgary and Moose Jaw, Sask., have all confirmed their own probes. Deaths have been reported in multiple countries including Italy, Ireland and New Zealand.
Law has only been charged in Ontario.
LISTEN | What we know about the case of Kenneth Law:
Front Burner24:17Over 100 deaths, lethal substances, and a global investigation
Alleged victim was ‘everything’ to her parentsPolice have said Law’s alleged victims, in Ontario cities including Toronto, London and Thunder Bay, were as young as 16. The parents of Jeshennia Bedoya-Lopez, from Aurora, Ont., told CBC she had only recently turned 18 when she died on Sep. 10, 2022.
“She was our only daughter and she was everything to us,” Jeshennia’s father, Leonardo Bedoya, said in a recent interview. Her mother, Maria Lopez, described her as “a jokester, a good student, a good daughter” and a good source of advice.
Jeshennia Bedoya-Lopez’s parents told CBC News their daughter had recently turned 18 years old when she died. (Submitted by Leonardo Bedoya)The couple said their daughter had just graduated from high school in June 2022 and dreamt of one day becoming a police officer. At times, they said they considered moving back to Leonardo’s native Colombia or to Spain, where the couple met, but Jeshennia insisted on staying in Canada.
They said they learned of the connection to Law when detectives paid them a visit 10 months after Jeshennia’s suicide.
“We were in shock,” Leonardo recalled. He said he and his wife hope Law spends the rest of his days behind bars. People “don’t know all the damage he’s done to the world,” Leonardo said.
Maria wears a necklace bearing Jeshennia’s picture. “It’s the only thing that consoles me,” she said.
LISTEN | Alleged victim’s brother calls for poison selling sites to be shut down:
The Current19:27Shut down websites selling poison, urges brother of man who died by suicide
Accused intends to plead not guilty”To my knowledge, in Canada there has never been a prosecution for this offence (aiding suicide) where the conduct in question is selling an otherwise-legal product on the open market,” Gourlay told CBC in an email before murder charges were added.
Police have said Law sold a toxic salt that can be legally purchased but has proven lethal when consumed in pure form. The same substance is commonly used as a highly diluted food additive.
Leonardo Bedoya urged anyone suffering from mental health struggles to seek support, even if they don’t feel comfortable speaking with family. “Find help from other people and let yourself be helped,” he said. “Life is worth a lot.”
WATCH | Mother reported website to police a year before arrest:
Suicides could have been prevented if police stopped alleged poison-seller, mother saysA mother says police did not follow up after she reported that her daughter bought chemicals online that she later used to try to kill herself. The Ontario-based seller has been linked to more than 20 deaths around the world but was only arrested a year after the mother reported it to police.
If you have a news tip related to this story, contact CBC News senior reporter Thomas Daigle by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know is struggling, here’s where to get help:
Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call or text 988
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (phone), live chat counselling on the website.
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre.
This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you’re worried about.