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Victims' families: Will killer-nurse inquiry lead to change?

By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press

Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer. (File photo)

Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer. (File photo)

ST. THOMAS - 

Over the course of seven years, registered nurse and serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer left a trail of corpses and unanswered questions -- and while a public inquiry into her killing spree can't undo her carnage, families of victims hope it will shed light to prevent other tragedies, lawyers for those families said Tuesday.

"My clients want to insure this never happens again," said a lawyer representing three of Wettlaufer's 14 victims, eight of whom were murdered by the very hands of a nurse who was supposed to safeguard their care in nursing homes in Woodstock and London from 2007 to 2014.

The public inquiry, held in a courthouse here, began Tuesday with its head, Justice Eileen Gillese, explaining how her team had investigated four areas:

The conduct of Wettlauffer herself, who was interviewed by the commission in February

The roles played by Ontario's chief coroner and forensic pathology service, the College of Nurses of Ontario and the province's health ministry.

The fireworks at the Wettlaufer inquiry are expected to start Wednesday when Brenda Van Quaethem, a former administrator at the Caressant Care nursing home in Woodstock, will field questions from lawyers who include those representing families of victims who fell prey to a crime spree that made Wettlaufer one of Canada's most notorious killers.

Wettlaufer was fired in 2014 after numerous warnings and suspensions over conduct that placed residents at risk. The former administrator will be followed to the stand at the St. Thomas courthouse by Helen Crombez, a former nursing director at the home.

The third witness will be Caressant Care nurse Karen Routledge, who was the union representative for the Ontario Nurses Association.

Wettlaufer herself won't be testifying at the inquiry, which is expected to last nine weeks.

Gillese, the head of the inquiry, said in a written decision that she rejected requests from victims' families for Wettlaufer to testify because the commission interviewed her in February and there is a transcript of her confession to police.

Wettlaufer was sentenced to life in prison last year after pleading guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder for killing residents at Caressant Care in Woodstock and a London nursing home between 2007 and 2014. She also pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted murder and two of aggravated assault.