Coventry & Warwickshire

Melchert-Dinkel: Coventry web suicide jail term reversed

William Melchert-Dinkel arriving in court Image copyright AP
Image caption In 2011 William Melchert-Dinkel was found guilty of aiding two suicides

A former nurse from the USA who encouraged a Coventry man to take his own life has had his conviction reversed on appeal.

William Melchert-Dinkel was jailed in 2011 for aiding the suicides of Mark Drybrough, 32, from Coventry, and Canadian Nadia Kajouji, 18.

Melchert-Dinkel, 51, told police he befriended suicidal people on the internet for the "thrill of the chase".

On Wednesday, the former nurse had his jail sentence put on hold.

Mr Drybrough hanged himself in 2005 and Ms Kajouji died by jumping into a river in 2008.

Elaine Drybrough, Mark's mother, said Melchert-Dinkel had been encouraging suicide "for years before their deaths, probably because he enjoyed it".

"What Melchert-Dinkel did was immoral but whether or not it's illegal is another matter and is to be decided by the courts," she added.

Right to free speech

Melchert-Dinkel served 320 days in prison and, as part of his sentence, had to return to jail for two days on the anniversaries of the two suicides each year until 2022.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mark Drybrough, 32, hanged himself in 2005

A Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the language in the US law that pertains to "encouraging" suicide was unconstitutional, but upheld the part of the law that bans "assisting" suicide.

It decided to reverse Melchert-Dinkel's requirement to return to jail for the remaining anniversaries.

Melchert-Dinkel's lawyer argued he was exercising his right to free speech and had no influence on either person's actions.

According to court documents, he acknowledged participating in online chats about suicide with up to 20 people and entered into fake suicide pacts with about 10, five of whom he believed killed themselves.

In July 2012, an appeals court panel ruled the state's assisted suicide law was constitutional, and that Melchert-Dinkel's speech was not protected by the First Amendment.

In light of Wednesday's ruling Melchert-Dinkel's case has now been referred to a lower court.

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