US nurse, tracked by Maiden Bradley women, convicted over suicide cases
Wiltshire's very own Miss Marple has said her thoughts are with the families of the victims of an American nurse, who was convicted this week of encouraging people to commit suicide.
Celia Blay, a 65-year-old grandmother from Maiden Bradley, tracked down William Melchert-Dinkel over the internet after finding out that he was encouraging vulnerable people to kill themselves on an internet forum.
Following his appearance in court on Tuesday, Mrs Blay, a self-confessed technophobe, simply said: “My thoughts are with the families of the victims. There really isn’t anything else to add.”
Melchert-Dinkel has been convicted of aiding the suicides of an English man and a Canadian woman after seeking out depressed people online and urging the two to kill themselves.
The 48-year-old was prosecuted over the death of Mark Drybrough, who died from hanging, and of Nadia Kajouji, who leapt into a river.
Prosecutors say he posed as a female nurse, advising them on suicide. His lawyer said the two were already suicidal, and cited freedom of speech.
Melchert-Dinkel declined a jury trial, and on Tuesday a judge in Rice County in the US state of Minnesota issued the verdict.
Prosecutors said he was obsessed with suicide and enjoyed the ‘thrill of the chase’.
They said he discussed suicide with as many as 20 people online, and entered into suicide pacts with 10, at least five of whom killed themselves.
Melchert-Dinkel’s attorney Terry Watkins acknowledged his acts were ‘sick’ and ‘abhorrent’ but said Mr Drybrough of Coventry had been ill for years and Ms Kajouji was depressed and drinking heavily.
Mrs Blay, 65, started investigating Melchert-Dinkel’s activities in 2002, after striking up an online relationship with a depressed teenager.
Despite police and the FBI refusing to investigate the case, Mrs Bray remained determined to unmask the online voyeur, who posed as a woman in her 20s to encourage depressed and suicidal people, mostly teenagers, to commit to a suicide.
Eventually she managed to convince police in Minnesota, USA, to take on the case and their inquiries resulted in the arrest of Melchert-Dinkel.
Mrs Blay admits she remains a novice when it comes to the internet, and had to rely on the help of her son, Paul, to track down the nurse, who was using aliases such as Li Dao and Falcon Girl.
“Without my son I would have got nowhere,” she said last year.
“He reckons that I’m at about an eight-year-old’s standard now.
“He was obviously phoney and these people weren’t in pacts with the person they thought they were.”
Melchert-Dinkel faces up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 (£18,676) fine. He is to be sentenced on May 4.