'They were going to die anyway': Defence of former nurse who 'encouraged suicidal people to kill themselves in online chat rooms'

Lawyers for a man accused of encouraging two people to kill themselves told a court his online conversations had no effect on the victims because they had already planned to die.

Prosecutors said William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, was obsessed with suicide and got a thrill from preying on people in their most desperate hours.

They said he posed as a suicidal female nurse to win his victims' trust, then entered false suicide pacts and offered detailed instructions on how people could take their own lives.

'Creepy': William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, is accused of encouraging two people to kill themselves on an internet chat forum

'Creepy': William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, pictured with his wife Joyce, is accused of encouraging two people to kill themselves on an internet chat forum

Paul Beaumaster, county attorney, said: 'He knew exactly what he was doing. The defendant specifically targeted vulnerable individuals.'

Melchert-Dinkel has pleaded not guilty to two counts of aiding suicide.

He claims he has done nothing illegal and his conversations are protected free speech.

Prosecutors claim he admitted participating in online chats about suicide with up to 20 people and entering into fake suicide pacts with around 10, five of whom he believed had killed themselves.

He is charged over the 2005 hanging death of Mark Dryborough, 32, of Coventry, and the 2008 death of Nadia Kajouji, 18, from Brampton, Ontario, who jumped into a frozen river.

Mr Beaumaster added: 'These individuals were fragile people. It was the defendant who was suggesting a long-term solution to a short-term problem.'

Mark Drybrough
Nadia Kajouji

Vulnerable: Briton Mark Dryborough, 32, from Coventry, hanged himself and, right, Nadia Kajouji, 18, from Ontario, jumped into a frozen river after apparently having conversations with Melchert-Dinkel online

Terry Watkins, defending, said both victims had been troubled.

He said Mr Dryborough had been ill for several years and had gone online looking for drugs to overdose. Mrs Kajouji had suffered a miscarriage after drinking heavily and was depressed, he said.

But he argued they were intelligent people who would not be swayed by Melchert-Dinkel's online 'babbling'.

The defendant has waived his right to a jury trial and a judge will decide whether he is guilty within 20 days.

According to court documents, Mr Dryborough posted a message in a chat room asking for instructions on how to hang himself.

He began receiving emails containing detailed instructions from Melchert-Dinkel, who used the name 'Li Dao'.

Mr Beaumaster said that in Mr Dryborough's last communication with the defendant, he said he was scared and 'holding on to the hope that things might change'.

Mrs Kajouji went online on March 1, 2008, saying she was afraid of failing to commit suicide. Five days later, prosecuters said she participated in online chats with Melchert-Dinkel, posing as 'Cami'.

She said she planned to jump in a river the following Sunday and 'if drowning doesn't get me, hopefully hypothermia will'.

Melchert-Dinkel replied that if it failed, they would hang themselves together the next day.

Mrs Kajouji disappeared on March 9, 2008. Her body was found six weeks later.

Mr Watkins said Mr Dryborough did not hang himself in the method described by Melchert-Dinkel and refused a request to set up a webcam so he could watch.

He called his client's actions 'creepy' and 'abhorrent', but added: 'That minimal communication did nothing - did nothing - to change the acts that had already been put in motion.'

Elaine Dryborough, Mark's mother, said Melchert-Dinkel 'put in a lot of effort to be persuasive and to give instructions'.

Deborah Chevalier, Mrs Kajouji's mother, said he had 'picked her out as prey'.

The trial continues.