BROADCAST DATE : Mar 24, 2017

The Unravelling of Nurse Wettlaufer

Eight deaths of elderly patients under her care.  Nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer is arrested for murder. She's charged with eight counts of first-degree murder and four counts of attempted murder.  

What happened?

Revelations about her and her life from close friends, neighbours and the nurse’s own words.

  • The nurse accused of killing eight residents at care homes in southwest Ontario made a stunning admission via online chat last fall about the fate of "more than six" seniors who died on her watch, one of her childhood friends told CBC's The Fifth Estate in an exclusive interview
  • Elizabeth Wettlaufer was struggling personally and professionally, and in mid-September checked herself in to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto to battle a long-running substance-abuse problem
  • She posted about being there on Facebook, and longtime acquaintance Glen Hart, who says he grew up across the street from Wettlaufer in Woodstock, Ont., struck up an online chat with her to try to support her, he said
  • That's when Wettlaufer began to open up with some startling revelations from her past, Hart said
  • Here is an excerpt of what Hart told The Fifth Estate:
    "It started off that she had something that she wanted to tell me," recounted Hart, who now lives in Toronto and does advocacy and community work. "I said, 'Well, sure,' not expecting what was coming. She then disclosed that, well, 'Somebody died because of something I did at work.' " Hart said he assumed the nurse was referring to a tragic on-the-job mistake or accident. "She clarified that it wasn't accidental, and when I said, 'Well, what did you do to hurt this person or to kill this person?' she said, 'Oh, it wasn't a person. It was several…' "She said, 'Well, it was at least six. More than six, actually.' "
  • For more, read: Nurse accused in seniors' deaths stated 'it wasn't accidental,' childhood friend says

Nurse accused of killing seniors tended to them 'just prior to their deaths,' police allege

Nursing home patient records show former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer, accused of killing eight seniors in southwestern Ontario, tended to them "at or just prior to the time of their deaths," according to police allegations filed in court last fall but kept confidential until today.

Officers say they came to that conclusion after parsing records obtained from long-term care homes in Woodstock, Paris and London where Wettlaufer worked between 2007 and 2016, often as the nurse in charge on the night shift.

"It was confirmed that Beth Wettlaufer had direct care of each of the victims ... at or just prior to the time of their deaths," says the police filing, a sworn statement investigators submitted to a judge in October to get a court order to obtain her education records.

Sections of the heavily censored statement offer a glimpse of how officers looking into Wettlaufer arrived at the decision to charge her with eight counts of first-degree murder, in an investigation that has largely remained cloaked in mystery and innuendo.

New snippets of the document, which contains unproven allegations yet to be tested in court, were made public Thursday morning following an Ontario Superior Court judge's ruling. The Postmedia newspaper chain had been fighting to get the entire file unsealed. 

The newly released portions show police homed in on "insulin overdose" as a possible cause in the deaths of the eight seniors early in their investigation, questioning managers at two nursing homes where Wettlaufer worked about how they stored and tracked the medicine.

A manager at Caressant Care in Woodstock, where Wettlaufer was employed from 2007 to 2014 and where it's alleged she killed seven seniors, said the nursing home doesn't secure or monitor its stocks of insulin.

She added that it would "never be looked at as a cause of death" in a patient, according to a summary of her remarks revealed in the police statement.

Another nursing home, Telfer Place in Paris, told investigators it doesn't track or control insulin either, the police statement says.

Disciplined for medication errors

Wettlaufer was fired from Caressant Care on March 31, 2014, but the police filing says she had been suspended four times before that for "medication-related errors."

Quoted portions of a dismissal letter from Wettlaufer's boss, Brenda Van Quaethem, say she was terminated because of a "serious" incident where she gave the wrong medication to an elderly patient.

"Although you have acknowledged this latest error, this is another incident in a pattern of behaviours that are placing residents at risk," Van Quaethem is quoted as writing.

"You have an extensive disciplinary record for medication-related errors, which includes numerous warnings as well as one-, three- and two five-day suspensions."

The newly uncensored police material suggests Wettlaufer struggled to hold down jobs after that.

In April 2016, she was "asked not to return" to one nursing home because of "her behaviour towards other staff members," the police document alleges.

Quit job at home-care agency

Then in August, she quit a job at a home-care agency and sent an email stating she "can no longer function as a registered nurse," the allegations say.

CBC's The Fifth Estate has learned Wettlaufer told a pair of acquaintances she was dismissed from two other jobs as well — one because she got caught stealing medication and another because she was high at work one day and gave a patient the wrong medicine.

Wettlaufer faces 14 criminal counts: the eight charges of first-degree murder involving seniors at Caressant Care in Woodstock and Meadow Park long-term care in London, four of attempted murder involving four other patients, and two of aggravated assault against two sisters who lived at Caressant Care.

The murder charges drove headlines around the world when they were announced Oct. 25.

None of the allegations have been tested in court and Wettlaufer has yet to enter a plea. If convicted of the murder charges, she would be one of Canada's worst serial killers.