Here’s death delivered to your door – for just £30 and after a few clicks on Amazon.
A Sunday People investigation reveals how a substance linked to a spate of suicides in Britain can still be bought on the world’s biggest shopping site.
One devastated mum whose son used it to end his life said: “It’s crazy how easy it is to get hold of this poison.”
At least 40 people in the UK are feared to have killed themselves in four years with the substance, which we are not naming.
Despite warnings about the poison from at least 10 coroners, it is being sold through so-called third party sellers who offer their goods via the regular Amazon site.
Our man ordered it on Amazon and it arrived in a plain brown package, wrapped in newspaper and tinfoil.
The substance – a small amount of which is enough to kill an adult – is legal and used in food production but sick online forums tout it as a suicide method. Because the substance is unregulated, buyers do not need a Home Office licence to get hold of it.
Sellers are meant to report suspicious transactions to police and repeated calls have been made to tighten regulations around its sale – as other countries have done.
But victims’ families say the Government’s slow response is costing lives.
Former Army cadet Joe Nihill, 23, of Leeds, took his life in April 2020 after accessing a suicide forum where the poison was being hawked for sale.
Mum Catherine, 50, said: “The whole system is broken and it needs regulating properly. People need to be challenged on why they are purchasing this stuff.
“It’s meant to be used for food preparation, for God’s sake. Why would anybody want it? Amazon and other retailers need to do more to clamp down.
“We’ve been trying to stop this for years. I don’t know why the Government is making it so easy for people to buy it.
“It would be really easy to introduce some kind of licensing system.”
Our findings compelled Labour MP Richard Burgon to demand answers from Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Amazon.
Mr Burgon, who has supported the Nihill family in his Leeds East constituency, said: “The fact that such a substance is being sold online is appalling and action is needed now.
“I have written to the Home Secretary calling for swift action to protect the public. In the meantime, Amazon needs to take responsibility and ensure it is not selling such substances. I have written to John Boumphrey, Amazon’s UK manager, calling on him to immediately end these sales.
“The Sunday People’s investigation cannot be ignored – we need action from Amazon and from the Government now.”
Mr Burgon added: “Joe Nihill was a popular young man who was tragically lost to his family, friends and our community when he took his life. Joe’s mother Catherine and sister-in-law Melanie have been a real inspiration, running a campaign to prevent what happened to Joe happening to others.”
Amazon is facing a lawsuit in America from two families who lost their teenage children to suicide and allege that the website is partly responsible for the deaths after selling the substance.
Papers filed at a Californian court in September claim Amazon recommended customers who purchased the poison also buy an Amazon edition of an assisted suicide handbook.
The People has told how dozens of lives are being lost to the substance.
Last month it was revealed student Neha Raju, 23, killed herself at her lodgings in Guildford, Surrey, after ordering the substance online.
Coroner Anna Loxton contacted Health Secretary Therese Coffey to warn “future deaths will occur unless action is taken”. Her report was also sent to Amazon’s US headquarters.
Ms Loxton said the substance was “freely available to be purchased from the internet in lethal quantities for delivery within the UK”. She warned: “No protection is afforded to vulnerable people prior to making such purchases. Consideration should be given to whether any steps can be taken to address the above concerns. In my opinion, action should be taken to prevent future deaths.”
Jason Thompson, 49, from Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham, died in February 2020 after buying the drug on eBay. A coroner wrote to the online giant to warn about future deaths following his inquest, prompting the company to ban its sale.
Other deaths linked to the product include Robert Coates, 17, who killed himself in Marlow, Bucks, in March 2019. A month earlier, Southampton University student Wira Sinuraya, 21, died after ingesting 100 times the safe amount. Samuel Dickenson, 33, died in March 2020 in Bolton and Ashley Walker, 25, took a lethal dose in Kenilworth, Warwicks, in August 2019.
Coroners investigating the deaths of Linda Gillchrest, Thiago Araujo and Lee Elliot also flagged concerns that no safeguards stopped them getting the poison.
The Government said: “Every suicide is a tragedy and we work with experts to monitor and reduce access to means of suicide, including removing promotional material and providing clearer warnings of risk.”
Amazon said: “We extend our deepest condolences to families and loved ones personally affected by suicide. We are committed to providing a safe shopping experience and require selling partners to follow all applicable laws and regulations when listing items.
“The product in question is widely offered by retailers to preserve foods but unfortunately, like many products, it can be misused. High concentrations are not intended for direct consumption. We have limited the sale of high concentrations to business buyers on Amazon Business. In marketplaces where Amazon Business is not yet available, we no longer sell high concentrations of this product in our stores.”