17 March 2011

Former nurse convicted of assisting suicides

A former nurse who advised depressed people over the Internet about the best way to tie ropes to hang themselves, was found guilty of inciting two suicides.


A former Minnesota nurse who advised depressed people over the Internet about the best way to tie ropes to hang themselves and encouraged one to webcast the event, was found guilty of inciting two suicides.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, of Faribault, Minnesota, surfed the Internet posing as a depressed woman planning her own death and looking for people who might want to form suicide pacts, a Minnesota judge found.

At least two people, a British man and Canadian woman, killed themselves within days after exchanging e-mails or chatting online with Melchert-Dinkel, who advised people on the length and thickness of rope needed for a successful hanging.

Nurse never 'discouraged' victims

Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, hanged himself at his home in 2005. Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Ottawa, jumped into a river in 2008 wearing ice skates. Her body was found more than a month after she was reported missing.

Kajouji had told Melchert-Dinkel in an online chat of her plan to make her death appear like an accidental drowning. Posing as a woman who planned to kill herself at the same time, Melchert-Dinkel advocated hanging as a backup plan.

He sought to gain the confidence and sympathy of the victims by using a false name and gender and his "desire to remain covert and anonymous" proved an intent to induce the suicides, Judge Thomas Neuville wrote in his ruling.

"Defendant never tried to discourage either victim from committing death by suicide, or question the morality or judgment of the act," Neuville wrote. "Rather, the facts indicate repeated and relentless encouragement by defendant to complete the suicide."

Suicide discussions online

A British woman who had frequented a chat room where people discussed suicidal thoughts warned Minnesota police in March 2008 that she suspected an online predator of encouraging suicides. She later said she suspected Melchert-Dinkel.

A police investigation found e-mails from at least six other people who had been advised by Melchert-Dinkel on how to commit suicide by hanging, including tips on knot-tying.

Melchert-Dinkel asked one potential victim to use a webcam to record her hanging and told a man to practice beforehand to ensure a successful hanging, the judge added in his ruling.

Melchert-Dinkel faces up to 30 years in prison when sentenced on May 4. He had entered a plea in which he accepted the evidence against him and let the judge decide whether his actions constituted a crime.(Reuters Health/ March 2011)

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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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