Manchester

Abrin: Boy, 16, sentenced after ordering deadly toxin online

A "troubled" teenager who admitted trying to buy a deadly toxin over the "dark web" has been sentenced.

The 16-year-old boy, from Tameside in Greater Manchester, attempted to place an online order for abrin - a toxin 30 times more powerful than ricin.

Police said the basis of his guilty plea was that he was hoping to buy it with a view to taking his own life.

The boy, who cannot be named because of his age, was given a 12-month referral order at Manchester Youth Court.

The court also ordered that his smartphone be destroyed.

'Dark web'

He was charged with trying to obtain 10mg of abrin under the Biological Weapons Act 1974 and Criminal Attempts Act 1981.

At an earlier hearing, Tameside Magistrates' Court heard just 0.05mg of abrin was enough to kill a human.

The North West Counter Terrorism Unit said the teenager was arrested after he attempted to place an order on the "dark web" - parts of the internet which cannot be found by conventional search engines.

The "sellers" in this case were actually undercover law enforcement officers.

Det Sgt Russell Stubbs said the teenager was a "vulnerable, troubled young man".

"Thanks to the vigilance of a number of different law enforcement agencies we were able to intervene before this young man got hold of such a deadly substance from a genuine seller.

"I hope now this case is concluded he can get the help and support he needs to turn his life around."


What is abrin?

Image copyright Forest & Kim Starr - USGS Plants of Hawaii
  • Abrin is a natural poison found in the seeds of a plant called the rosary pea or jequirity pea
  • It is similar to ricin, a toxin found in the seeds of the castor bean plant, but is 30 times more toxic
  • Can be made in the form of a powder, a mist, or a pellet, or can be dissolved in water
  • Abrin is used in medical research because of its potential as to kill cancer cells
  • It kills by preventing human cells from making the proteins they need
  • There is no known antidote for abrin poisoning

Sgt Stubbs urged parents to keep a "very close eye" on what their children were doing.

"The sooner we are able to identify someone either at risk or using the 'dark web' for criminal purposes, the better chance we have to consider appropriate intervention options."

A referral order is aimed at preventing reoffending among first time offenders between the age of 10 and 17 who have pleaded guilty.

After successful completion of the order, the offence is considered "spent".

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