Aiding suicide conviction reversed

Thurrock Gazette: Undated Family handout photo of Mark Drybrough with his father Laurie. Undated Family handout photo of Mark Drybrough with his father Laurie.

The mother of a man who killed himself following encouragement from an American nurse has reacted to the news that his conviction has been reversed by a US judge.

William Melchert-Dinkel was ordered to serve a year in prison in 2011 after he was found guilty of aiding the suicide of Mark Drybrough, 32, from Coventry.

Mr Drybrough hanged himself in 2005 after Melchert-Dinkel, of Faribault, Minnesota, posed as a suicidal female nurse on the internet to befriend him.

The former nurse has now had his 360-day sentence put on hold after a Minnesota Supreme Court reversed his conviction and referred the case to a lower court.

Melchert-Dinkel's lawyer argued he was exercising his right to free speech, and that the law - which states that anyone who "intentionally advises, encourages, or assists another in taking the other's own life" is guilty of a crime - was too broad .

The 51-year-old also argued that he had no influence on either person's actions

Melchert-Dinkel was also found guilty of aiding the suicide 18-year-old Canadian Nadia Kajouji, who died by jumping into a river in 2008.

Elaine Drybrough, Mark's mother, said: "What Melchert-Dinkel did was immoral but whether or not it's illegal is another matter and is to be decided by the courts.

"I don't think anyone would be able to do what he did, and the way he did it, today.

"He was doing it continuously from the time he was speaking to my son and Nadia. He'd been doing it for years before their deaths, probably because he enjoyed it."

Mrs Drybrough learnt of the correspondence between her son and an alias of Melchert-Dinkel soon after her son's death and made repeated efforts to alert authorities in the UK and the US, before the death of Ms Kajouji.

In 2011, Melchert-Dinkel to ld police he did it for the "thrill of the chase."

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

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

However, the court ruled today that the language in the law that pertains to "encouraging" suicide was unconstitutional, but upheld the part of the law that bans "assisting" suicide.

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