When Beth came through the arrival gate at Saskatoon’s Diefenbaker International Airport, she ran over and gave Sheila Andrews a big hug.
Andrews, a 50-year-old kitchen worker, had met Beth through an online dating site about six months earlier. The two had corresponded, hit it off, and made plans to meet. Beth, who lived in Ontario, decided she would come West for the meeting and Andrews drove into Saskatoon to pick her up.
When she first met Beth in June of 2009, Andrews had no idea she would spend the next week showing one of Canada’s most prolific serial killers around her hometown of Prince Albert.
Elizabeth Tracy Mae Wettlaufer had already committed at least two murders when Andrews met her in Saskatoon. A registered nurse at a Woodstock, Ont. long-term care facility, Wettlaufer injected senior citizens with insulin, killing them without arousing suspicion. Her first victim, an 84-year-old army veteran and father of six named James Silcox, was killed Aug. 11, 2007. Her second, 84-year-old Maurice Grant, received a lethal injection just four months later.
Wettlaufer killed eight seniors over a seven-year period beginning in 2007. Her victims ranged in age from 75 to 94. In 2016 the nurse was formally charged with eight counts of first-degree murder and, after pleading guilty to all eight counts this morning, cemented her place in the ranks of Canada’s worst serial murderers.
Andrews said Wettlaufer messaged her first, and the pair quickly found common ground. They each spoke about working with seniors — Wettlaufer in a professional capacity and Andrews caring for her elderly mother.
“She was an awesome person to talk to online. She was a very friendly, happy-go-lucky person,” Andrews said. “She wanted to move forward and start a relationship, so I said ‘well, let’s meet.’”
Wettlaufer left her husband in 2007 to pursue relationships with women, Andrews said, but when they met in person her online romantic chemistry quickly turned to doubts. Before the pair even left the airport, Wettlaufer had confessed her love.
“She just came running at me and almost tackled me,” Andrews said. “She talked about telling her friends we were going to be together, how much she was in love with me… It kind of scared me off for a second there.”
Even though Andrews already knew she wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with Wettlaufer, they planned to spend the week together in Prince Albert. She still considered Wettlaufer a close friend, so after spending the night at Motel 6 in Saskatoon, they drove North and got settled into Andrews’ Prince Albert home.
Andrews described Wettlaufer as friendly, personable and very concerned with her appearance, but said she could be childish at times. Wettlaufer tended to pout and sulk if she did not get her way, Andrews said, and once joked about not wanting to grow up.
“There was just something off about her,” Andrews said. “Just something not right.”
When she brought Wettlaufer with her to visit her elderly mother at Victoria Hospital, Andrews said Wettlaufer sulked quietly in the corner. After the visit, Wettlaufer told Andrews she would not go back to the hospital again, which she considered strange behaviour from a registered nurse.
During the week the pair went out for meals, toured the city and hung around the house. Wettlaufer was not very social, Andrews said, and didn’t meet any of her friends. At night the pair shared Andrews’ bed, though they were never intimate. Andrews continued to visit her mother throughout the week, which meant Wettlaufer stayed alone at her home for hours each day.
The strangest incident during their time together came during the last night before Wettlaufer was scheduled to fly home.
“I was just about asleep in bed and she woke me up,” Andrews said. “She told me I was a very cold-hearted person.”
Andrews said she asked Wettlaufer why she would say something so cruel, and Wettlaufer explained she made the comment because of Andrews’ refusal to be physically intimate.
At the end of the week, Andrews drove Wettlaufer back to Saskatoon. She asked the nurse if they could remain friends, but Wettlaufer coldly informed her a friendship was unlikely and got on the plane. By the time Andrews got home, Wettlaufer had already broken all of their ties through social media.
But it didn’t end there. Wettlaufer once again added Andrews to Facebook in July of 2016, and sent her a message saying she had a lot on her mind and couldn’t sleep. The pair chatted briefly, joking about who was up later due to the time change, but never spoke again. Three months later, Andrews saw Wettlaufer again, but this time it was on a newscast featuring her arrest. She said she was shocked.
“It was very frightening,” she said. “I actually texted my best friend and I said ‘I think I dated a serial killer.’”
As more details of the case emerged, Andrews said she ran through her episode with Wettlaufer over and over again trying to pinpoint any tiny hints or clues she may have missed.
“I always knew she was a little bit off, but I didn’t know she was that far off. It just plays in your head,” Andrews said. “I just thank God that she didn’t try to do anything to me in my sleep… I wasn’t old enough, I guess.”
Although she initially reacted with disbelief, Andrews said the more she thought about it, the more she realized Wettlaufer was capable of murder. She believes Wettlaufer only pleaded guilty as a publicity stunt.
“I think she deserves to never get parole at all,” Andrews said.
Although her brief relationship with someone so infamous has caused Andrews significant stress, she said she has dated since and will continue to search for her soulmate. She did, however, admit that her taste in women is not always perfect.
“I’m actually going through a divorce right now,” she said. “I just think I don’t pick the right people to date.”
–With files from The Canadian Press