In an Ontario, Canada case that might belong in a novel by Stephen King, a former nurse has been charged with first-degree murder for killing eight nursing home patients at two nursing homes in Woodstock and London, Ontario over a period of seven years. According to the New York Times, the patients ranged in age from 75 to 96, and all were said to have died “peacefully” of “possible chronic conditions” between 2007 and 2014. A tip to police started the investigation, and, shortly after it began, the defendant, Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer, gave up her nursing license.
When it was known that Wettlaufer had been charged with murder, relatives of some of the victims said they had felt suspicious about their family members’ care. Others said they never suspected anything, and some had even thanked the nursing home in the victims’ death notices.
The Ontario Provincial Police said that the investigation was continuing and that more charges were possible. The motive for the killings is as yet unknown. They added that a single method, the administration of drug not yet publicly identified by the police, had been used to kill all of the known victims. The Toronto Star reported that shortly before Wettlaufer was charged, a court order had specifically prohibited her from possessing insulin, commonly used to treat diabetes and “a drug that can be lethal and hard to detect.” No other drugs were included in the order.
A professor who has written a book about insulin murders told the Toronto Star that a high dose of insulin could render a person unconscious. The body responds to an insulin overdose by producing adrenaline, which can affect the heart’s rhythm and in some cases cause death. Earlier high-profile cases of insulin being used as a lethal weapon include a nurse killing his second wife with an overdose of insulin in England in 1957, and an English nurse who killed at least four children in her care and attempted to kill another nine, all with high doses of insulin.