A Canadian nurse has been charged with using drugs to murder eight elderly patients at two long-term care facilities, a highly unusual case in a country where such crimes are almost unknown.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer, 49, is accused of killing five women and three men in the Ontario towns of Woodstock and London between 2007 and 2014. The dead ranged in age from 75 to 96.
"The victims were administered a drug... there are obviously a number of drugs that are stored and are available in long-term care facilities," Woodstock Police Chief William Renton told a televised news conference on Tuesday.
Renton declined to give further details and said he could not speculate about a motive.
Wettlaufer appeared in court on Tuesday and was remanded in custody.
The criminal case is the largest in Ontario since 2006, when five men were charged with murdering eight members of a biker gang.
They were convicted in 2009 and sentenced to life in prison.
Renton said officers began probing the deaths in September after receiving a tip.
"This investigation is now being treated as a multiple homicide ... we are confident at this time that all of the victims have been identified," he said.
Doris Grinspun, head of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, said she was devastated.
In 1997 a Canadian doctor was charged with murdering a terminally ill cancer patient but the case was thrown out by a judge.
Seven of the dead lived in a Woodstock facility run by Caressant Care. The firm said in a statement that Wettlaufer had left her job in 2014.
A LinkedIn profile in the name of Elizabeth Wettlaufer said she was a nurse who had worked at the Woodstock home from June 2007 to March 2014. "Administering medications" was listed as one of her responsibilities.
In March, Italian police arrested a 55-year-old nurse on suspicion of murdering 13 elderly patients in the intensive care ward where she had worked for decades.
Earlier that month, a nurse Ravenna was given a life sentence for murdering a patient with an injection of potassium. She is under investigation for some 10 more suspicious deaths.