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Henry Robert WILLIAMS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Serial rapist
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: 1972 / 1973
Date of birth: ???
Victims profile: Constance Dickey, 19 / Neda Novak, 18
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in 1974. Voluntary castration

Sentenced to life imprisonment on his second conviction for rape and murder, Canadian Henry Williams opted for voluntary castration as a form of alternative treatment proposed for his evident mental disorders. 

Married and the father of two, Williams was advised by his trial judge that Canadian courts lacked the power to mandate emasculation, but he signed the medical release forms willingly, drawing praise from the judge for "insight and courage." Williams's latest trial concerned the rape and murder of Constance Dickey, a 19-year-old college student, in September 1972. 

He had been previously convicted and sentenced to life for the sex slaying of Neda Novak, age 16, in October 1973, along with the attempted murder of Julia Gosport, a teenaged visitor from England, in August 1974. All three crimes were committed in Mississauga, Ontario, and Williams confessed that he had raped two other young women in the area, sparing their lives on a whim. 

At his last trial, physicians testified that 900 Canadian castrations, carried out over a thirty-year period, had successfully reduced abnormal sex drives in ninety percent of all subject cases. 

The court offered Williams an option based on reports of inmate attitudes toward rapists and serial slayers of women. In prison, the judge decided, "he runs the real risk of being injured or killed."

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans


Our Innocent Past

June 13, 2008

In the fall of 1973, Constance Dickey was a 19-year-old first-year student at Erindale College, the Mississauga campus of the University of Toronto. Because her townhouse residence would not open for another few weeks into the fall term, she briefly stayed with her sister and brother-in-law in Toronto and was preparing to move into a temporary residence on Hurontario St., much closer to campus but still a lengthy bus ride away.

She asked her sister and brother-in-law to bring some personal items to the building on Hurontario one night in September. They arrived at the prearranged time, but Constance was nowhere in sight. Presuming a misunderstanding, they drove back to their home thinking they would see her there, but there was no sign of her. Her brother-in-law reported her missing on Tuesday, September xx, 1973. The following Friday, the Metro Toronto police notified the Mississauga police and a search was launched. Her body was found in the woods near Erindale College. She had been sexually assaulted and then strangled to death.

No other clues could be gleaned for almost another year, but the proximity of time and geography prompted a theory. The previous July, 33-year-old Christine Demeter, a former fashion model, was found by her husband, Peter on the floor of their garage. Mrs. Demeter had been killed by a blow to her head. The severity of the blow exposed her remains in a pool of blood, which reportedly prompted Mr. Demeter’s first response: “I didn’t realize my wife had so much brains.” [accuracy and attribute] This mordant comment contributed to the police’s suspicion that Mr. Demeter was guilty of her murder, despite the fact that he was away from the house with several houseguests at the time of her death. The manner of Mrs. Demeter’s killing was quite distinct from that of Contance Dickey’s (notably, there was no suggestion that Mrs. Demeter had been sexually assaulted prior to her death), but the Demeter house stood literally a stone’s throw from Erindale College and where the young student had been found. The police looked for a possible connection, and perhaps because there was no more of the story to report after the discovery of the body, the media kept the idea alive.

And then there was another curious disappearance. Neda Novak was an 18-year-old high school student at Erindale Secondary School, as close to Erindale College as it was to the Demeter house. In early October, less than a month after Constance Dickey’s disappearance and death, Neda’s parents began to worry when she didn’t come home one night. Their worry would not abate until the following spring, after all the snow had melted and a fisherman looking for worms along the Credit River near the Streetsville cemetery looked underneath some old wood and found a badly decomposed body. Neda’s identity was confirmed through dental records, but that seemed just a formality as her schoolbooks with her name inside them lay a few feet away.

The similarities between Constance Dickey and Neda Novak were compelling, but there were also differences. Dickey’s body was found nude whereas Novak’s was still clothed, and the advanced state of decomposition precluded any clear indication of sexual assault. Dickey had been strangled and Novak had not. Dickey was found in the woods near Erindale College, close to where Christine Demeter died, and Novak was quite far away. Maybe all three deaths were unrelated, or maybe the murderer very consciously undermined the similarities. The police were stumped and had no useful clues that might lead them to the perpetrator.

The miraculous answer would come to them in the form of a 16-year-old girl. In August, a little less than four months after Neda’s body had been found, Julie Sheldon was visiting from England and was hitchhiking after a day at the CNE. She held the stuffed animals in her arms as she accepted a ride on Winston Churchill Boulevard. But instead of being driven home, she was taken into a field and raped. Her attacker then proceeded to stab her, hit her on the head until she lost consciousness and buried her body under a pile of rocks. Presuming she was dead, he departed from the scene.

Amazingly, Julie was not dead. She regained consciousness and managed to crawl to the road, flag down a car and was driven to the hospital. To add to the wonder of her survival, she remembered seeing a name inside the car of her attacker: Henry Robert Williams. She conveyed this information to the police who arrested a construction worker with that name the following day. Not only did the name match the identity of the attacker but he quickly confessed to the murders of Constance Dickey, Neda Novak and the attempted murder of Julie Sheldon after sexually assaulting all three. In the fall of 1974, Williams was convicted of the murders. Julie Sheldon spent three months in hospital, testified against her attacker and then returned home to England.

In many ways, the story ends there. A serial rapist and killer is convicted without a shadow of a doubt and incarcerated for the foreseeable future. A young girl, though devastatingly harmed, survives heroically and recovers to live her life without fear of crossing paths with her assailant again. But while the events and names have faded from newspaper headlines and even the memories of many Mississauga residents who were astonished and then gripped by the news, there were some very interesting chapters to the story.

Although Williams confessed to the rapes and murders, his defence strongly emphasized that he suffered a mental disorder that provoked him to commit the crimes. After his conviction, he lobbied for castration, gaining the support of the trial judge.

One might expect that after such a horrific experience that Julie Sheldon would stay as far as possible from the scene of the crime. And for five years, she did. But at the age of 21, she returned to Mississauga. Not only did she allow herself to be in the vicinity of her terrible experience, she decided to become a police officer in Peel Region which encompasses Mississauga and all sites of Williams’ crimes. But apart from this revelation, her name has rarely surfaced in the media. As a police officer, she uses her married name and very little information can be found about her.

And in 1987, their paths would cross again, although only metaphorically and in the courts rather than real life. For some years, Williams had been granted supervised day parole and visited with his family, still loyal and committed to him. These visits had been without incident, so Williams petitioned for unsupervised parole. As his request was being examined, letters from the victims’ families and from Julie Sheldon arrived. Their protests against his request were vehement and excerpts from their letters were carried in the media across the country.

I'm currently researching this story further. Any comments, especially from anyone with more details on these events, are welcome.



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