A woman who became obsessed with the television drama Breaking Bad has been cleared of trying to kill her mother by slipping deadly poison bought over the internet into her Diet Coke.
Kuntal Patel admitted buying poison from an anonymous US-based seller who she likened to “Walter White” – the murderous anti-hero of the US series – but said she threw away the highly toxic abrin before she could carry out her plot.
The online deal was uncovered by the FBI and sparked a huge police operation in London amid fears of a terrorist plot. But it emerged that Ms Patel had bought the toxin after claiming to have been bullied and beaten by her mother during a ferocious dispute over the man she wanted to marry.
After recovering encrypted messages between Ms Patel and the seller, the 37-year-old was accused of trying to kill her magistrate mother using “untraceable” toxin but a jury believed her claims that she bought it while considering suicide.
It was alleged that Ms Patel dreamed up a murder plot after becoming “addicted” to the American TV series Breaking Bad and watching an episode in which Walter White kills an enemy with ricin-laced tea.
She admitted to fantasising about killing her mother and bought the poison from Jesse Korff – who claimed his products would cause a “horrible death” – but was cleared of attempted murder by a jury after three hours of deliberations.
However, the Barclays Bank graphic designer was convicted of acquiring a biological agent or toxin. She had previously admitted two similar charges and will be sentenced next month.
She said the comments were part of a wild fantasy world in which she imagined herself as Walter White or a “Mexican drug warlord”. It was a coping mechanism to deal with her strict mother who was hell-bent on breaking up her relationship with her US-based fiancé, she said.
Jurors at London’s Southwark Crown Court heard that her mother, Meena Patel, was “highly manipulative and controlling” – demanding to know where her daughters were “every minute of every day”.
Ms Patel admitted paying £950 to Korff – who used the name Snowman – using the virtual currency bitcoins to buy the abrin, which was shipped to Britain inside a candle.
In the US earlier this year, Korff, 19, admitted producing and selling toxins and conspiring to kill the magistrate. He will be sentenced next month and faces a maximum jail term of life.
Korff was arrested in January after a sting operation by the US authorities posing as a buyer for his products that he marketed through Black Market Reloaded, an anonymous criminal marketplace.
He was arrested after operations involving bomb specialists, forensic teams and experts in weapons of mass destruction, according to the FBI. It said that he sold ricin and abrin to buyers from India, Austria, Denmark and to Ms Patel in London.
He agreed to send a second dose after Ms Patel said the first one was ineffective following discussions about how much was needed to kill a person. Korff assured her that her mother’s death would appear to be a bad case of the flu.
After she was confronted with the emails, she claimed the murder plot was a “product of her imagination” and she was trying to catch out Korff as a scammer.Reuse content