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Information from accused nurse led to probe into alleged murders: source

Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer, of Woodstock, Ontario, is shown in this still image taken from video provided by Citynews Toronto in Woodstock on Tuesday Oct. 25, 2016. The Canadian Press has learned that the investigation into the alleged murders of eight long-term care home residents was launched after police received a tip from a psychiatric hospital in Toronto.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Citynews Toronto
October 27, 2016 - 6:00 AM

TORONTO - The investigation into the alleged murders of eight elderly nursing home residents was prompted by information the nurse accused in the case provided to a psychiatric hospital in Toronto, The Canadian Press has learned.

Officials from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) alerted the Toronto police that Elizabeth Wettlaufer, of Woodstock, Ont., had shared information with hospital staff that caused them "concern," a police source familiar with the investigation said Wednesday.

Wettlaufer, 49, was charged Tuesday with eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of elderly residents at two nursing homes in Woodstock and London, Ont.

The source said once Toronto police received the information from the hospital, officers interviewed Wettlaufer and found out that the alleged crimes had occurred outside Toronto police's jurisdiction.

That's when Toronto police passed the information to the Ontario Provincial Police and police forces in Woodstock and London, said the source, who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

The investigation into the alleged murders was launched on Sept. 29. Wettlaufer was arrested on Monday and appeared in an Woodstock courthouse on Tuesday where she was remanded into custody.

The victims have been identified as James Silcox, 84, Maurice Granat, 84, Gladys Millard, 87, Helen Matheson, 95, Mary Zurawinski, 96, Helen Young, 90, Maureen Pickering, 79, Arpad Horvath, 75.

Lawyers for Wettlaufer could not immediately be reached for comment.

CAMH declined to comment, saying they do not disclose information about their clients due to patient confidentiality.

However, a peace bond Wettlaufer entered into earlier in the month required her to "continue any treatment for mental health" with any physician to whom she was referred by her family doctor or "representatives of CAMH."

Wettlaufer was also not allowed to possess or consume alcohol and had to obey a curfew and reside in either her apartment or with her parents in Woodstock between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., except to attend alcoholics anonymous meetings, according to terms laid out in the peace bond.

Wettlaufer's friend, Nancy Gilbert, told The Canadian Press that Wettlaufer had told her she recently completed her second stint in rehab in Toronto and seemed to be in good spirits.

A Facebook page for a Bethe Wettlaufer, whose photo, education and employment records match that of Elizabeth Wettlaufer, makes reference to what appears to be a struggle with substance abuse.

"My own voice called to me in the darkness. Others hands lifted me when I chose the light. One year ago today I woke up not dead. 365 days clean and sober," says a post from September 2015.

While health-care professionals are generally bound by patient confidentiality requirements, they are obliged in some cases to contact police or other authorities without a patient's consent, such as in cases where they believe a death is suspicious or other important interests are at stake.

Ontario law, for example, mandates that doctors must contact authorities if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a resident of a nursing or retirement home has suffered harm or is at risk of harm due to "improper or incompetent treatment or care, unlawful conduct, abuse or neglect."

"Physicians have a legal and professional obligation to maintain the confidentiality of patient information," Ontario's doctor licensing body says. "There are circumstances, however, where physicians are either required or permitted to report particular events or clinical conditions to the appropriate government or regulatory agency."

Wettlaufer is scheduled to appear in court by video on Nov. 2.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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