A Western University criminology professor and former London police officer says Elizabeth Wettlaufer is a unique Canadian criminal.
The former Ontario nurse pleaded guilty Thursday to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of nursing home patients in her care. Michael Arntfield says there are 41 cases of health-care killers in the U.S. since 1970, but Wettlaufer is the first he’s aware of in Canada.
In addition to the eight counts of first-degree murder, the 49-year-old Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
The crimes took place over the last decade in multiple Ontario long-term care facilities where Wettlaufer worked as a registered nurse, and at a private home.
Arntfield, the author of Murder City‘, a bestselling book about serial murders between 1954 and 1984 says Wettlaufer meets the textbook definition of a serial killer.
“The consolidated definition is two or more victims at separate times, over a prolonged period with at least some break between the crimes. So, not consecutive spree murders in a given day but two premeditated murders at different times and locations. In this case, we’re talking eight, that’s more than meets the criteria,” he said.
Wettlaufer allegedly injected her victims with insulin with the murders taking place over a seven-year span.
In his most recent book, Murder in Plain English, Arntfield predicted Wettlaufer would eventually plead guilty.
“It was written with the expectation based on what I saw early on that she would plead guilty,” he said.
Of the 41 serial killers who were in the health-care field in the U.S. since the 1970s, 90 per cent have pleaded guilty, according to Arntfield.
He said health care killers aren’t well understood because it can be difficult to uncover their crimes. In Wettlaufer’s case, nine years passed before it was discovered her first victim, James Silcox, had been murdered.
“Are there others out there operating with impunity because they are so difficult to track — in this case, it took years before they got onto her — it’s possible but it’s still very rare,” he said.