Ex-nurse 'entered into false suicide pact with Briton'

American befriended at least 50 other vulnerable people by posing as woman on internet chatrooms

An American former nurse charged with encouraging a British man to commit suicide by entering into a false internet suicide pact with him was in contact with at least 50 other vulnerable people and also targeted children, the British woman responsible for tracking him down said last night.

William Melchert-Dinkel, from Minnesota, was charged by US authorities with encouraging Mark Drybrough, 32, from Coventry, to end his life. Mr Drybrough hanged himself in 2005.

Mr Melchert-Dinkel was also charged with encouraging a Canadian teenager, Nadia Kajouji, 18, to kill herself. She drowned in a river in Ottawa in 2008. Mohamed Kajouji, Nadia's father, said: "He's an evil man, to do all that. He should have given her a way out, not put her in a corner and tell her, 'there's no hope for you, there's nothing you can do to get better'."

Mr Melchert-Dinkel, 47, himself a father, is said to have befriended vulnerable people by posing as a young woman on suicide chat rooms. He would then try to persuade them to commit suicide while he watched. Often he would offer advice as to how people should end their lives, prosecutors say.

He might still be operating were it not for the tenacity of a 64-year-old grandmother from Wiltshire. Celia Blay yesterday described the events that helped her unearth Mr Melchert-Dinkel's alleged crimes.

She said she became determined to bring him to justice when she discovered that he was in contact with an internet user who claimed to be just 13.

Mrs Blay, speaking to the IoS, said she first came across suicide chat rooms by accident four years ago. She was logged on to an academic medieval site when a new user appeared with an unusual user name. "On academic sites people use their own names," she said. "I was curious, so I clicked on the person's profile and it brought up the other sites they used, one of which was a suicide site."

Mrs Blay befriended the user, who was a girl aged 17, but two months later the girl entered into a suicide pact. "I was very shocked," she said, "because I'd only just managed to convince her that she was actually depressed, and could be treated. She was a very naive 17-year-old.... The problem at that age is that you can get depressed very easily. She said she didn't want to let this other person down, so I tried to trace them to talk to them about it." Unfortunately, the trail went cold.

By chance, however, the users of the site decided to swap notes and discovered that many of them had entered into a pact with a user called Li Dao.

Mrs Blay and a friend who had contemplated suicide, and therefore knew the emotions involved, set up a sting operation to discover Li Dao's identity. Her friend entered into an email correspondence with Li Dao – and fell under his spell so far as to buy a rope and alcohol. Fortunately for the would-be suicide, "Li Dao" walked past a web cam during an exchange, revealing himself as a middle-aged man. He had previously sent a photograph of his wife – and children – claiming to be her.

But he sent an email using his genuine email address by mistake and Mrs Blay managed to trace his address and telephone number. She contacted West Midlands police because he claimed to have convinced two people in Birmingham to commit suicide. "They asked for evidence on floppy disc, then said they couldn't read the disc. I've no evidence that they ever investigated [the matter]." The FBI also failed to respond. But one of her customers – she sells riding whips for carriages – lived near Mr Melchert-Dinkel in Minnesota and knew the deputy sheriff. The police there launched a year-long investigation.

"It was very fortunate," Mrs Blay said. "The problem now is whether they can successfully prosecute. The law is very unclear. I know there are at least two 19-year-olds he was in touch with who committed suicide. There are victims in America but their families don't want to be named. I think he was in contact with more than 50 people; not all of them have committed suicide. It was at the point where I realised he was targeting children that I became determined to track him down."

Mr Melchert-Dinkel, who lives in Faribault, Minnesota, will appear in court on 25 May, charged with two counts under a rarely used offence of aiding suicide. If convicted, he could spend up to 15 years in prison.

US prosecutors allege that Mr Melchert-Dinkel told police he had encouraged "dozens" of people to kill themselves, and "characterised it as the thrill of the chase". He also told police he stopped the internet chats after Christmas 2008 for moral and legal reasons. He said he "felt terrible" about advising others to commit suicide.

Suggested Topics
Voices
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
Sport
Oliver Giroud kisses the Arsenal badge after giving the Gunners the lead
sportArsenal 3 West Ham 1: Two goals from the German striker and one piece of brilliance from Giroud puts the Gunners back above Everton
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Arts & Entertainment
Philip Arditti as Yossarian and Christopher Price as Milo Minderbinder in Northern Stage's 'Catch-22'
theatre
Arts & Entertainment
The Purple Wedding: Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell tie the knot
TV The second episode of the hit series featured a surprise for viewers
Life & Style
Back to nature: women with body issues have found naked yoga sessions therapeutic
lifeDoing poses in the altogether is already big in the US, and now it’s landed here – in mixed classes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Move from Audit to Advisory

£45000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Move from Audit to Advisor...

Management Consultancy - Operational Research Analysts

£35000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: You must ...

Secondary Teaching Assistant

£60 - £70 per day: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This outstanding Secondary School...

Application Support Analyst (MS SQL, java based webserver, batch scripting)

£36000 - £40000 Per Annum On call allowance.: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?