Survivor of serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer makes surprise appearance at hearing

The woman who once told a courtroom she was too afraid to go anywhere after surviving an insulin overdose delivered by serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer, makes a surprise appearance at hearings for the upcoming inquiry into the former nurse's actions.

Beverly Bertram survived attack, calls for better hiring standards for nurses

Commissioner Eileen Gillese addresses lawyers at the Elgin County Courthouse on Tuesday as the Wettlaufer inquiry holds participation hearings ahead of the formal tribunal, which is set for the summer of 2018. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The woman who once told a courtroom she was too afraid to go anywhere after surviving an insulin overdose delivered by serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer, made a surprise appearance on Tuesday at participation hearings for the upcoming inquiry into the former nurse's actions. 

Wettlaufer is currently serving a life sentence for the murders of eight seniors in her care and the attempted murders of four others over a seven-year period across southwestern Ontario from 2007 to 2014.

Beverly Bertram, who was 68 at the time and receiving home care, described in her victim impact statement to a Woodstock, Ont., court in June that she felt immense pain, doubled over and wondered why no one would help after she was administered a massive dose of insulin by Wettlaufer. 

I don't look at people or nurses the same way.— Beverly Bertram

She wrote that the attack left her scarred years afterwards. Too afraid to go anywhere, she instead stayed home with the curtains drawn. 

On Tuesday however, leaning on a walker, Bertram stood at the lectern in a St. Thomas, Ont., courtroom and addressed officials including Justice Eileen Gillese, the inquiry head. 

"After the attempted murder I don't look at people or nurses the same way," she said. "Do they know what they're doing? Are they qualified? Who do I call to check? How can this happen in our community?" she said, reading from a statement. 

"From my perspective as a victim, I had the need to speak today because if I don't speak, there will be no changes to the long-term care," she said in the Elgin County Courthouse. 

'Too many people are alone'

"The agencies that hire nurses in our communities have to have better rules, more expectations. If they change jobs a number times, why?" she said, an apparent allusion to Wettlaufer's multiple job postings in the area. 

"Medication errors should not be let to slide. Too many people are alone and there is no respect or kindness toward people in nursing homes, at least not in my home. This is wrong."

CBC News was told by senior counsel at the inquiry that Bertram could not be photographed.

When CBC News made an interview request, inquiry senior counsel Elizabeth Hewitt answered on Bertram's behalf, saying, "She'll think about it."

​Bertram is one of 47 people and groups looking for the right to call and question witnesses at the upcoming inquiry. 

The organizations include advocacy groups, healthcare workers' unions, regulators and even long-term care homes themselves. 

Gillese and her team of lawyers will consider the applications over the next month and likely make a decision on which parties will be able to participate in the formal inquiry in January. 

The inquiry is expected to get underway in June.  

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca