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BBC Identifies Poison Seller Linked to Online Suicide Forum

Years after selling lethal poison associated with at least 130 deaths in the UK, a Ukrainian man reportedly behind said sales has has been located by the BBC.

Leonid Zakutenko pictured.
Credit: BBC

Years after selling lethal poison associated with at least 130 deaths in the UK, a Ukrainian man reportedly behind said sales has has been located by the BBC.

Leonid Zakutenko, who operated on an online suicide forum, revealed in an undercover investigation that he sent five packages per week to the UK. The substance he supplied is the same as that sold by Canadian Kenneth Law, who is currently facing 14 murder charges. Zakutenko denied the allegations when confronted by the BBC at his residence in Kyiv.

The BBC’s investigation found that Zakutenko had been supplying the substance for years. Although the chemical is legally available for sale in the UK, it can only be sold to companies with legitimate purposes due to its dangerous properties. These companies have to be thoroughly checked and subjected to basic tests on the intended use of the substance before selling it to customers. Even small doses of the chemical can be fatal if ingested.

A pipette and a drop of red liquid, water, poison, acid, blood on a black background.
Dropper. Credit: Shutterstock/Antonina Trushina

Deaths Linked to Zakutenko

The family of twin sisters Linda and Sarah Kite, who tragically died in London after acquiring poison from Zakutenko, described him as a “contemptible and evil human being”. Linda, who learned about the seller through a well-known suicide forum, gained easy access to the poison for a minimal cost.

Their sister, Helen Kite, criticized the authorities for their failure to prevent her sisters and numerous others from obtaining the chemical, calling it a “national disgrace”. The suicide forum openly discussed the substance sold by Zakutenko, with members advising each other on purchasing and using it. According to Professor Amrita Ahluwalia from Queen Mary University of London, who analyzed samples from deceased individuals, the chemical may be linked to over 130 deaths in the UK since 2019.

Zakutenko’s case is reminiscent of Chef Kenneth Law’s, who was apprehended in Canada in May 2023. He has been charged with 14 counts of murder and aiding suicide after having sold the chemical more than 1,200 times to buyers in 40 countries, causing at least 93 deaths in the UK. Zakutenko has been selling the same chemical since at least November 2020. Additionally, he offers three different prescription medicines mentioned in online suicide guides. He briefly promoted his services on the same suicide forum as Law, and his contact details were shared among users.

Canadian criminal Kenneth Law.
Canadian criminal Kenneth Law pictured. Credit: CBC

The BBC tracked Zakutenko to a small apartment in Kyiv, where he was confronted outside a local post office while sending more parcels. When asked about sending a poisonous chemical to people seeking to end their lives, he denied the accusations before attempting to cover the camera and walk away. The BBC confirmed that at least one of the parcels contained the chemical by placing an order and receiving a tracking number shortly after Zakutenko left the post office.

Further Action

David Parfett, whose son Tom purchased the same chemical from Kenneth Law, resulting in his death in October 2021, campaigns to shut down the suicide forum and halt sellers like Zakutenko. British authorities were alerted to the chemical and the online trade in September 2020 by a coroner investigating the death of Joe Nihill. Coroners across England have subsequently written to various government departments on multiple occasions, urging action against the chemical and the suicide forum.

Mr. Parfett tested the system by ordering a consignment from Zakutenko in December 2023, hoping the authorities would intercept the package. While he received a “welfare check” from the police a few days afterward, he still received the chemical within weeks, and no further police visits were made. Both Mr. Parfett and Ms. Kite advocate for stricter measures against the forum, referring to it as an “abomination” that preys on the most vulnerable individuals and causes immeasurable suffering for those left behind.

A person wearing an orange shirt is delivering parcels to a client.
A person wearing an orange shirt delivering parcels to a client. Credit: Shutterstock/Leika Production

The government has stated that the newly enacted Online Safety Act, designed to restrict access to such forums, should help address this issue.

Written By

First-year English student and aspiring writer at University College London.

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