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Did nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer kill a 9th person? Court order raises questions

The family of a London, Ont., woman has won a court order compelling police to hand over details about the criminal investigation into the death of their mother at a care home where serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer was working, CBC News has learned.

Now imprisoned, Wettlaufer has admitted to killing 8 patients in Ontario nursing homes

Elizabeth Wettlaufer, seen leaving a Woodstock, Ont., courthouse in Jan. 2017, was convicted in the murder of eight nursing home patients. The family of a woman who died on Wettlaufer's watch thinks she might have been a ninth victim. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

The family of a London, Ont., woman has won a court order compelling police to hand over details about the criminal investigation into the death of their mother at a care home where serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer was working, CBC News has learned.

Florence Beedall, 75, died at London's Meadow Park Long-Term Care home on Aug. 23, 2014 — the same day Wettlaufer, admittedly, injected another Meadow Park resident with a lethal dose of insulin. Wettlaufer, 52, is serving eight concurrent life sentences for the murders of eight patients between 2007 and 2014. 

Documents filed to obtain the court order and seen by CBC News reveal that Beedall's death caught the attention of police and "the London Police Service undertook an investigation." No charges have been laid as a result of that investigation. 

The court order compels London police to hand over an "unedited version" of their report and of the handwritten field notes by officers" as well as "unedited witness statements."

It's not clear if police interviewed Wettlaufer as part of their investigation. 

The court documents also reveal that Beedall's family first tried to obtain the details of the investigation from London police in October, through "compassionate" grounds, but were refused.

Police 'in discussions' with family's counsel

It's been three weeks since a London civil court issued the order; London police have not yet handed over the information.

"The London Police Service is presently in discussions with counsel for the [family] ... regarding the terms of the order and the order itself.  The order relates to a third-party civil matter, and the LPS is unable to comment further," London police Const. Sandasha Bough said in an email to CBC News. 

Beedall's family has declined to speak about the situation.

Wettlaufer confessed to injecting 75-year-old Arpad Horvath with lethal amounts of insulin at Meadow Park the same day Beedall died.

Horvath managed to survive for another eight days before finally succumbing.

Susan Horvath holds a photo of her father, Arpad Horvath, who was killed by Wettlaufer at Meadow Park Long-Term Care Home in London, Ont. Another resident, Florence Beedall, died the same day. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Police have always maintained Horvath was the last of Wettlaufer's eight murder victims.

The former nurse has also confessed to lethally injecting seven residents at the Caressant Care home in nearby Woodstock, Ont.: James Silcox, 84, Maurice (Moe) Granat, 84, Gladys Millard, 87, Helen Matheson,  95, Mary  Zurawinski, 96, Helen Young, 90, and Maureen Pickering, 79.  She's also admitted trying to kill or harm six other patients in her care with insulin injections. 

Public inquiry never heard about other possible crimes

Since June, a public inquiry looking into Wettlaufer's crimes has been examining how the crimes went undetected for almost a decade until Wettlaufer's confession to police in 2016.

The inquiry is in its final stage, now preparing recommendations aimed at preventing a similar situation from happening again.

Dozens of witnesses testified at the inquiry, yet there was never any mention of other possible victims. 

Lawyers for the inquiry confirm they were alerted about the concerns of the Beedall family two weeks ago, but they cannot look into them because the inquiry is limited to investigating only the crimes for which Wettlaufer was convicted.

Mark Zigler, co-lead commission counsel, told CBC News the inquiry hasn't received any information about a ninth potential victim from either police or the London Crown attorney's office, which prosecuted Wettlaufer.

Horvath was believed to be Wettlaufer's final victim, but Beedall's family say she was also killed by Wettlaufer while living at Meadow Park. (Simon Dingley/CBC)

London Assistant Crown Attorney Fraser Kelly has not responded to numerous CBC News inquiries about whether the office had any information about Beedall's death being deemed suspicious or if any charges were contemplated in the case.

Last May, just before the public inquiry started, at least seven of the families victimized by Wettlaufer requested that the former nurse testify at the inquiry, but inquiry Commissioner Eileen A. Gillese denied the request.

"In my view, whatever evidentiary benefit there might be from her testifying at the public hearings is significantly outweighed by the costs associated with her attendance," Gillese determined.

The families' lawyer, Alex Van Kralingen, says he respects Gillese's decision but doesn't agree with it.

"Obviously if she'd been brought to testify, one of the open questions would be if she had been engaging in any other sort of conduct outside the offences that she confessed to. I think that would have been great value in having her there," he told CBC News.

Beedall's death was flagged

CBC News has learned Beedall's family aren't the only ones who raised concerns about her death.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long Term Care both launched investigations into Wettlaufer's time at Meadow Park after the nurse's initial confessions to killing patients in her care. 

The ministry visited Meadow Park 47 times and conducted 51 interviews.

"We wanted to be certain it did not miss anything," Karen Simpson, director of long-term care inspections for the ministry, told the public inquiry last summer.

CBC News has reviewed thousands of pages of ministry documents submitted as exhibits to the inquiry.

Justice Eileen Gillese is overseeing the inquiry into Wettlaufer's crimes. (Wadham College/Twitter)

Buried deep in a massive electronic file detailing Wettlaufer's shifts at Meadow Park is a reference to a death at the care home on Aug. 23, 2014, the deceased identified only by the initials FB.

The document shows Wettlaufer was working an afternoon shift at Meadow Park that day. 

In all, 14 deaths at Meadow Park were flagged by the ministry because they occurred within 24 hours of Wettlaufer working a shift. Arpad Horvath's death was also flagged.

It's not clear what, if anything, Wettlaufer has told police about Florence Beedall. Investigators won't say.

Police have relied almost solely on the former nurse's confessions to determine who she killed because physical evidence was essentially non-existent. Insulin is a naturally occurring substance that dissipates quickly from the body after death; tracing it is difficult — especially years later.  

London police referred all questions about the police investigation to the OPP, which led the criminal probe.

Sgt. Carolle Dionne of the OPP told CBC News they are aware of Beedall's death and said Wettlaufer has never confessed to OPP investigators to killing Beedall.

A spokesperson for Meadow Park said the facility isn't aware that Beedall's death might be considered suspicious.

"All of our records relating to the resident in question were shared with police as part of a request for a large volume of records," said Judy Maltais, director of long-term care at Meadow Park.

"Beyond that, we have no information that connects this resident to the tragic events under discussion. We continue to work closely with all regulatory bodies as required," she added.

About the Author

John Lancaster

Senior Reporter, CBC Toronto

John Lancaster is a senior reporter with CBC News focusing on investigative and enterprise journalism. His stories have taken him across Canada, the US and the Caribbean. His reports have appeared on CBC Toronto, The National, CBC's Marketplace, The Fifth Estate-and of course CBC online and radio. Drop him a line anytime at john.lancaster@cbc.ca.