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David Russell WILLIAMS

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rapist - Former Colonel in the Canadian Forces
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: November 25, 2009 / January 28, 2010
Date of arrest: February 7, 2010
Date of birth: March 7, 1963
Victim profile: Corporal Marie-France Comeau, 37 / Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd, 27
Method of murder: Asphyxiation
Location: Ontario, Canada
Status: On October 21, 2010, Williams was sentenced to two life sentences for first-degree murder, two 10-year sentences for other sexual assaults, two 10-year sentences for forcible confinement and 82 one-year sentences for burglary; all the sentences will be served concurrently at Kingston Penitentiary
 
 
 
 
 
 

Parcial transcript of taped interview with Det. Sgt. Jim Smyth

 
 
 
 
 
 

National Defence Department Williams biography Page

 
 
 
 
 

Photo Galleries

 

Col. Russell Williams

evidence

 
 
 
 
 
 

David Russell Williams (born March 7, 1963) is a convicted murderer, rapist, and former Colonel in the Canadian Forces.

From July 2009 to his arrest in February 2010, he commanded Canadian Forces Base Trenton, a hub for air transport operations in Canada and abroad and the country's largest and busiest airbase. Williams was also a decorated military pilot who had flown Canadian Forces VIP aircraft for Canadian dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the governor general, the prime minister, and others.

On February 8, 2010, he was relieved as the base commander at CFB Trenton due to criminal charges. He was formally charged by the Crown Attorney pursuant to provisions set forth in the Criminal Code of Canada on evidence collected by the Ontario Provincial Police with two counts of first-degree murder along with two counts of forcible confinement and two counts of breaking and entering and sexual assault; another 82 charges relating to breaking and entry were subsequently added.

On October 21, 2010, Williams was sentenced to two life sentences for first-degree murder, two 10-year sentences for other sexual assaults, two 10-year sentences for forcible confinement and 82 one-year sentences for burglary; all the sentences will be served concurrently at Kingston Penitentiary. The life sentences mean Williams will serve a minimum of 25 years before parole eligibility. Since he has been convicted of multiple murders, Williams is not eligible for early parole under the so-called "faint hope clause" of the Canadian Criminal Code.

On October 22, 2010, Williams was stripped of his commission, ranks, and awards by the Governor General of Canada on the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Staff. His severance pay was terminated and the salary he received following his arrest was seized, although he is still entitled to a pension. Subsequent to his conviction, his uniform was burned, his medals were destroyed and his vehicle crushed and scrapped.

Personal life

Williams was born in Bromsgrove, England, to Cedric David Williams and Christine Nonie Williams (née Chivers). His family immigrated to Canada, where they moved to Chalk River, Ontario. His father was hired as a metallurgist at Chalk River Laboratories, Canada's premier nuclear research laboratory.

After relocating to Chalk River, the Williams family met another family, the Sovkas, and they became good friends. The families would spend a lot of time together. Williams' parents divorced when he was six years old and soon after, Nonie Williams married Jerry Sovka. During this time Williams took on the name Sovka from his stepfather Dr. Jerry Sovka, and moved again to Scarborough, Ontario. While in the Scarborough Bluffs area, Williams began high school at Toronto's Birchmount Collegiate, but finished at Upper Canada College. He delivered The Globe and Mail newspaper and learned piano. By 1979 his family had moved to South Korea, where Sovka was overseeing another reactor project. Williams completed his final two years of high school as a boarding student at Toronto's Upper Canada College while his parents were in South Korea. In his final year in 1982, he was elected as one of two prefects for his boarding house, and reported to his house steward, Andrew Saxton, now the Conservative Member of Parliament for North Vancouver.

On June 1, 1991 he married Mary Elizabeth Harriman, who is an associate director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. According to Canadian Defence Department Williams biography, Williams is a keen photographer, fisherman and runner, and he and his wife Mary Elizabeth are also avid golfers.

The couple moved to Orleans, a suburb of Ottawa in July 2006. By then Williams had been posted to the Directorate of Air Requirements at NDHQ. He served at the Airlift Capability Projects Strategic (CC177 Globemaster III) and Tactical (CC130J Hercules J), and Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue.

Williams' wife has since December 2010 started the process of filing for divorce together with a request to have any of her financial and medical information sealed by the court.

Military service

Williams was regarded as a model military man over the course of his 23-year career. He enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1987 after graduating from the University of Toronto with an economics and political science degree. He received his flying wings in 1990, and was posted to 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, based at CFB Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, where he served for two years as an instructor.

Promoted to captain on January 1, 1991, Williams was posted to 434 Combat Support Squadron at CFB Shearwater, N.S. in 1992, where he flew the CC-144 Challenger in the electronic warfare and coastal patrol role. In 1994, he was posted to the 412 Transport Squadron in Ottawa, where he transported VIPs, including high-ranking government officials and foreign dignitaries, also on Challengers.

Williams was promoted to major in November 1999 and was posted to Director General Military Careers, in Ottawa, where he served as the multi-engine pilot career manager.

He obtained a Master of Defence Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada in 2004 with a 55-page thesis that supported pre-emptive war in Iraq, and in June 2004, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and on July 19, 2004 he was appointed commanding officer of 437 Transport Squadron at CFB Trenton, Ont., a post he held for two years.

From December 2005 to May 2006, Williams also served as the commanding officer of Camp Mirage, a secretive logistics facility believed to be located at Al Minhad Air Base in Dubai, United Arab Emirates that provides support to Canadian Forces operations in Afghanistan.

He was posted to the Directorate of Air Requirements on July 21, 2006 where he served as project director for the Airlift Capability Projects Strategic (C-17 Globemaster III) and Tactical (CC-130J Super Hercules), and Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (CC-127J Spartan), working under Lieutenant General Angus Watt at this posting.

In January 2009 he was posted to the Canadian Forces Language School in Gatineau, Quebec, for a six-month period of French language training, during which he was promoted to colonel by recommendation of now retired Lieutenant-General Angus Watt.

On July 15, 2009, Williams was sworn in as the Wing Commander at Canadian Forces Base Trenton by the outgoing Wing Commander Brigadier General Mike Hood. Canadian Forces Base Trenton is Canada's busiest air base and locus of support for overseas military operations. Located in Trenton, Ontario, the base also functions as the point of arrival for the bodies of all Canadian Forces personnel killed in Afghanistan, and the starting point for funeral processions along the "Highway of Heroes" whence their bodies are brought to Toronto for autopsy.

Williams has been described as an elite pilot and "shining bright star" of the military. He had flown Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Governor General of Canada, the Prime Minister of Canada, and many other dignitaries across Canada and overseas in Canadian Forces VIP aircraft.

Investigation and arrest

Jessica Lloyd, 27, had vanished on January 28, 2010. Investigators identified distinctive tire tracks left in snow near her home. One week after her disappearance, the Ontario Provincial Police conducted an extensive canvassing of all motorists using the highway near her home from 7 pm on February 4, 2010, to 6 am on the following day, looking for the unusual tire treads. Williams was driving his Pathfinder that day — rather than the BMW he usually drove — and an officer noticed the resemblance of his tire treads. These were subsequently matched to the treads near Lloyd's home.

On February 7, 2010, the CFB Trenton base commander was at his newly built home in Ottawa, where his wife lived full-time and he lived part-time, when he was called by the OPP in Ottawa and asked to come in for questioning. During the 10-hour interview he confessed to the numerous crimes of which he was later convicted. Early the next morning Williams led investigators to the woman's body in a secluded area on Cary Road, about 13 minutes away from where he lived. Williams was also charged in the death of Corporal Marie-France Comeau, a 37-year-old military flight attendant based at CFB Trenton, who had been found dead inside her home in late November 2009.

Along with the murder charges, Williams was charged with breaking and entering, forcible confinement, and the sexual assault of two other women in connection with two separate home invasions near Tweed, Ontario in September 2009. According to reports, the women had been bound in their homes and the attacker had taken photos of them.

Williams was arraigned and remanded into custody on Monday, February 8, 2010. The Canadian Forces announced that day that an interim commander would soon be appointed to replace him (Dave Cochrane took over 11 days later), and removed his biography from the Department of National Defence website the following day.

Hours after the announcement of Williams' arrest, police services across the country reopened unsolved homicide cases involving young women in areas where Williams, a career military man, had previously been stationed. According to news reports, police began looking at other unsolved cases based on a full statement that Williams gave to police.

A week after his arrest, investigators reported that, along with hidden keepsakes and other evidence they had found in his home, they had matched a print from one of the homicide scenes to his boot.

In addition to the four primary incidents, the investigation into Williams includes probes into 48 cases of theft of women's underwear dating back to 2006. In the searches of his Ottawa home, police discovered stolen lingerie that was neatly stored, catalogued, and concealed.

In April 2010, Williams was placed on suicide watch after he tried to kill himself by wedging a stuffed cardboard toilet paper roll down his throat.

Confession

On February 7, 2010, Williams was interrogated at Ottawa Police Service headquarters by Detective Sergeant Jim Smyth, a member of the Ontario Provincial Police's Behavioural Sciences Unit. The interview started at 3 p.m. and by 7:45 p.m. he was describing his crimes. The interrogation lasted approximately ten hours. Excerpts of the confession were shown in court at Williams' sentencing hearing on October 20, 2010.

In the confession, Williams gave details of his crimes, including the sexual assaults in Tweed and 82 break-ins and thefts. Some of them occurred in Ottawa homes within walking distance of his Orleans, Ontario home where he lived with his wife. Other break-ins and thefts occurred in Belleville, and in Tweed, where the couple had had a cottage since 2004.

He also told police where they could find evidence, including hidden keepsakes, inside the Ottawa home. The couple had moved to a new house two months before he was interrogated by police. He told Detective Sergeant Jim Smyth where police could find the thousands of images he took of Lloyd and Comeau and the two women he sexually assaulted. He then identified on a map where he dumped Lloyd’s body. A video of the interrogation was made available to the public and was posted online by several newspapers and on YouTube.

Court proceedings and trial

Williams appeared before the Ontario Court of Justice in Belleville, Ontario via video link from the Quinte Detention Centre on July 22, 2010, where his next court appearance was set for August 26. Again via video link, Williams waived his right to a preliminary inquiry and thus had his next appearance scheduled at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for October 7, 2010. Williams' lawyer stated then that his client would plead guilty to all 82 Criminal Code charges filed against him.

On October 18, 2010 Williams pleaded guilty to all charges. On the first day of Williams' trial and guilty plea, details emerged of other sexual assaults he committed, including that of a new mother who was wakened with a blow to the head while she and her baby were asleep in her house. The first day of trial revealed that Williams also had pedophiliac tendencies, stealing underwear of girls as young as nine years old. He made 82 fetish-related home invasions and attempted break-ins between September 2007 and November 2009.

Williams progressed from break-ins to sexual assaults with no penetration to rape and murder. He kept detailed track of police reports of the crimes he was committing, logged his crimes, kept photos and videos and even left notes and messages for his victims. In a break-in into the bedroom of a 12-year-old, he left a message in her computer saying: "Merci" ("Thank you" in French). He took thousands of pictures of his crimes and kept the photos on his computer. Crown Attorney Robert Morrison presented numerous pictures of Williams dressed in the very underwear and bras he had stolen, frequently masturbating while lying on the beds of his victims.

Some of the photos presented on the first day of his trial were published in several newspapers. As some newspapers explained, although troubling, the photos were published because they capture the essence of the crimes of Williams and show the true nature of his crimes. Among the news media that published some of the released photographs were The Montreal Gazette and The Toronto Star.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert F. Scott sentenced Williams on October 22, 2010, to two concurrent terms of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

In what is believed to be a first, Williams' uniform was destroyed through burning by the Canadian Forces, as his name had been stitched into the fabric. His medals were also later destroyed and his Pathfinder was crushed and scrapped.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Williams gets 2 life terms for 'despicable crimes'

CBC.ca

October 21, 2010

A judge has sentenced Col. Russell Williams to two terms of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for the first-degree murders of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd.

The decorated former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton was also sentenced in Ontario Superior Court in Belleville on Thursday to 10 years for each of his two charges of sexual assault and two charges of forcible confinement. He was also sentenced to one year for each of the other 82 lesser charges he faced.

Just before sentencing, Williams told Justice Robert F. Scott he is "indescribably ashamed" of the crimes he's committed, and especially apologized to the families of the two murdered women.

Williams, 47, had pleaded guilty Monday to 88 charges.

He blew his nose before standing in the eastern Ontario courtroom to address Scott. Williams was shaking, tearing up and paused between sentences during his five-minute address.

"Your Honour, I stand before you indescribably ashamed. I know the crimes I have committed have traumatized many people," he said.

"The family and friends of Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd in particular have suffered and continue to suffer profound, desperate pain and sorrow as a result of what I’ve done."

Williams said he understands "the hatred expressed yesterday and that has been palpable throughout the week. I deeply regret the harm I know I've caused."

He also said: "I committed despicable crimes, your honour, and in the process betrayed my family, my friends and colleagues and the Canadian Forces."

Before delivering his sentence, Scott said nothing surprises him anymore and that he believed Williams's apology was sincere.

"Fortunately for all, the nature of these crimes are very rare in our society. The depths of depravity demonstrated by Russell Williams have no equal," Scott said.

Williams's sentence also includes:

  • That he be prohibited for life from possessing weapons.

  • That he be registered for life as a sex offender.

  • That he submit DNA samples to the police data bank.

  • That he pay a $100 victim surcharge for each charge, for a total of $8,800.

While Williams is eligible to apply for parole in 25 years, Scott said there is no guarantee he will be released.

Crown lawyer Lee Burgess said he would not seek to have Williams declared a dangerous offender because it would have just prolonged the hearing. He called it "superfluous" because he believes the facts he outlined during the week will prevent a parole board from ever allowing Williams out on parole.

Williams will serve his sentence at the Kingston Penitentiary.

The prison has a maximum-security area called G Block, where dangerous offenders like Paul Bernardo spend the rest of their days in small isolation rooms, some for 23 hours a day.

Earlier Thursday, Burgess had asked Scott to sentence Williams to one-year concurrent sentences on each of 82 break-ins and 10-year concurrent sentences on each of two sexual assaults.

"They were violated, sir, not only by this man's hands, but by his lens, two young women terrorized in their last hours, just for the sexual gratification of this man," Burgess told the judge.

Burgess contrasted the image of Comeau, blindfolded and bloodied yet still fighting for her life, with the image of the man who murdered her with a piece of duct tape. Burgess also mentioned how Lloyd co-operated to try to save her life and how Williams knew he'd kill her but told her she would live if she did not fight.

"David Russell Williams is simply one of the worst offenders in Canadian history," Burgess said.

Applause could be heard in court after Burgess finished his statement.

Burgess asked that some of the items used in evidence be destroyed, including Williams's digital cameras, the ropes and the stolen lingerie, as well as the Nissan Pathfinder he used to abduct Lloyd and dump her body. This request was granted by Scott. The thousands of photos and videotapes Williams took documenting his crimes will be kept for possible review by a future parole board, Burgess said.

"We are a community that's been shocked and saddened by all that's transpired," Burgess said. But he stressed that Williams's crimes don't define the region; it is defined by how it pulled together in the wake of them.

"You could hardly open your eyes in the days after Lloyd's disappearance without seeing posters or something about her. We're a community that has also been transformed by his crimes. The impact of his crimes extends far beyond his crimes. What makes it more despicable is this is a man considered above reproach," he said.

Burgess said Williams no longer represents the Armed Forces, which the community continues to support.

"He betrayed this community and he betrayed the military and he betrayed the men and the women who serve in the military. He was a leader in that base and in the community. He exploited that to divert suspicion from himself," he said.

He contrasted how in one night, Williams dropped the puck at a Belleville hockey game, and then later tried to break into the home of a woman he had sexually assaulted. When he carried the Olympic torch, the community came to cheer him on, "this man who had already committed the crimes," Burgess said.

Defence lawyer Michael Edelson said he had no issue with what the Crown proposed.

"There is nothing that can be said to change the legal outcome and consequences here today," Edelson said. "It is not the role of the defence to specifically address the victim impact resulting from the crimes. But we wish to acknowledge their suffering and we take no issue with what Crown counsel [is] proposing."

Edelson pointed out mitigating factors that Scott should consider when sentencing Williams. He said a lengthy and costly trial — a case of this magnitude could take several years to reach a conclusion — was avoided by Williams confessing to the crimes and pleading guilty.

"It is important to note that only 17 of 48 homeowners had reported homes were broken into. Until he confessed, they were unable to identify a suspect," he said.

Edelson also noted how detailed Williams's confession was and how he assisted police to locate Lloyd's body and told them where he hid his copious images and trophies of the crimes.

Outside court Thursday, Andy Lloyd, Jessica Lloyd's brother, said: "As long as he dies in jail, I'm happy."

He thanked everyone who worked on the case and said his family is indebted to them.

"It's over with, it's done with," Lloyd said. "This is the best thing that's happened to our family since this stuff has happened…. We just want to be normal again."

In St. John's Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper commented on the case.

"Our thoughts, our prayers, our hearts obviously go out to the victims and to their families," Harper said.

"Also, our thoughts go out to all the members of the Canadian Forces who knew the commander, and who have been very badly wounded and betrayed by all of this."

He reiterated that the military intends to take the necessary actions to ensure that all sanctions that are possible are applied.

What Williams said:

Your Honour. I stand before you indescribably ashamed. I know the crimes I have committed have traumatized many people. The family and friends of Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd in particular have suffered and continue to suffer profound, desperate pain and sorrow as a result of what I’ve done. My assaults of Ms. [name redacted because of publication ban] and Ms. Massicotte have caused them to suffer terribly as well. Numerous victims of the break and enters I have committed have been very seriously distressed as a result of my having so invaded their most intimate privacy. My family, your honour, has been irreparably damaged. The understandable hatred that was expressed yesterday and that has been palpable throughout the week has me recognize that most will find it impossible to accept, but the fact is, I deeply regret what I have done and the harm I know I have caused to many. I committed despicable crimes, your Honour, and in the process betrayed my family, my friends and colleagues and the Canadian Force.

 
 

The secret life of Col. Russell Williams expose

Jim Rankin and Sandro Contenta - TheStar.com

October 18, 2010

BELLEVILLE—The charges against the colonel took 36 minutes to be read out to a silent courtroom.

David Russell Williams stood facing the clerk listing his crimes, his head bowed as if the weight of his deeds were crushing him.

To the first count of murdering Marie-France Comeau, a flight attendant who worked at his air force base, he pleaded in a clear voice: “Guilty, your honour.” To the second count of killing Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd, his guilty plea was barely audible.

Crown attorneys then took turns revealing the full extent of Williams’ depravity, evidence that left family members of victims covering their eyes and gasping — “He’s sick,” one said. In an overflow courtroom, some members of the public got up and left. “Oh, my god,” said one woman. “Disgusting,” said one man.

By day, Russell Williams was the commander of Canada’s biggest air force base, CFB Trenton. By night, he broke into homes, taking pictures of himself modeling the bras and panties of little girls.

He escalated quickly, from fetish break-ins, to sex assaults with no penetration to rape and murder. He logged his crimes, kept track of police reports of his crimes and left notes and messages for his victims. “Merci,” he thanked a 12-year-old in a typed message on her computer.

“Merci beaucoup,” he captioned a souvenir photo he took of his penis strapped to a sex toy he stole from a 24-year-old Ottawa victim in June 2008.

We learned that Williams made a video of his brutal beating and asphyxiation of Comeau after breaking into her home Nov. 24, 2009. He also made sex tapes of Lloyd after kidnapping her the night of Jan. 28, taking her to his cottage in Tweed, raping and torturing her for at least a day before dumping her corpse in a field.

Lloyd’s mother, Roxanne, sat in the front row, cradling a framed portrait of her daughter.

We learned that Williams, 47, had pedophile tendencies, stealing underwear of girls as young as 9 years old during the 82 fetish home invasions and attempted break-ins between Sept. 2007 and November 2009. He broke into 48 different homes in the Belleville-Tweed area and Ottawa. One, he hit nine separate times. And he was good at it.

Sixty-one of the 82 break-and-enters went either undetected or were not reported. He targeted homes where attractive women lived, but as is disturbingly evident in photos of him naked and masturbating in young girls’ rooms, he had other tastes.

Williams took “thousands” of pictures of his crimes, Crown attorney Robert Morrison said, all of which he kept on his computer. The court saw numerous pictures of Williams dressed in the panties and bras he stole, often lying on the beds of his victims, masturbating.

There were photos of him wearing the stained pink underwear of a girl under what looked like his air force issued pants. Morrison suggested Williams might have worn the stained pink panties to work at the base he commanded.

There were photos of him lying in beds surrounded by the stuffed toys and panties of little girls, or of him wearing negligees and camisoles. In all the photos, his expression was stern, as if on parade for inspection.

On New Year’s Day 2008, he broke into a home in the Ottawa neighbourhood where he lived and sprayed semen on a 15-year-old girl’s dresser. He then took a picture of himself with the girl’s make-up brush touching his penis.

“There is nothing to suggest that make-up brush was stolen,” Morrison added to the audible gasps of the family members.

Throughout most of the day, Williams sat with his head bowed low, as though he wanted to crawl under a bench. But he looked at the video screens when pictures of himself in women’s lingerie were posted.

“The offences emphasize his obsessive behaviour,” Morrison said.

There was a pattern to the photos he would take during a break-in: He would first photograph the bedroom of his victim, then the underwear in her dresser. He would then arrange the lingerie neatly on a bed or on the floor, before modeling them and ejaculating.

Another ritual was to turn his back to the camera and peer back over a shoulder. There were also many close-ups of his penis, protruding from women’s underwear.

He collected hundreds of panties and bras from his break-ins, so many that he twice took some of his “trophies” to a field in Ottawa and burned them. He kept the photographs, though, and hid them on hard drives he stored in the ceiling above the basement of his Ottawa home. He used a system of deep electronic folders to make them more difficult to find.

There were four crown attorneys in court, and it soon became clear why so many. The reading of the facts took such time that voices croaked before handing over the task to another.

The court heard of Williams’ chilling escalation from fetish burglaries, to sex assault and finally murder from September 2007 to January 2010. On July 10, 2009, he was at a neighbour’s house in Tweed, which he would eventually break into nine times. This was his sixth visit.

At 1:30 a.m., he watched as the young woman stripped and stepped in the shower. Williams stripped naked, broke into her home, walked to her bedroom and stole her panties. “He admitted that at this point he wanted to take more risks,” Morrison said.

In another escalation, he hoped to watch a teenager undress, and while waiting outside her window, stripped naked in the bushes and masturbated.

Near the end of the first, long day of facts, crown attorney Burgess turned the attention to the first of two sex assaults, in September 2009, near Williams’ Tweed cottage. The victim, known as Jane Doe, is already suing Williams and over the incident. He broke in while she and her newborn baby slept.

He beat her, bound and blindfolded her with pillow cases and fondled her while taking pictures of her naked. Two hours later, Williams left.

The day in court began with a warning.

“I caution the court and the public that these facts will be extremely disturbing,” Burgess told the court at the outset. Referring to the 40 family members of victims in attendance, he added: “We recognize that representation of the evidence will further cause them emotional pain.”

Outside the courtroom, Andy Lloyd, Jessica’s brother, said the facts you heard were “horrible man. It’s terrible, terrible stuff.”

He said his mother brought a framed portrait of Jessica to court to “bring my sister’s face back into it, so that it’s not all about him, and what he’s done and to try to remember that there are families who are very angry at what he’s done.”

Williams, he said, looked “like a broken man,” but noted that he did occasionally look up to see his trophy pictures on big screen televisions set up in court.

As Williams sat in court, the military moved to remove him from the forces, beginning a month-long process that will strip him of his rank and medals. However, Williams will still have a right to his military pension.

Williams became a suspect when he was stopped at a police roadblock Feb. 4 on Highway 37, leading from Belleville to Tweed, where Williams owns a cottage on Cosy Cove Lane. The tire treads on his vehicle matched those found at Lloyd’s home, along Highway 37, the day after she disappeared.

Questioned at an Ottawa police station Feb. 7, Williams confessed to his crimes, Morrison told the court.

His first known break in was September 2007, when Williams invaded the home of his next door neighbour on Cosy Cove Lane. He was friends with the family. They would have dinner together and go fishing. He broke into their home three times.

One of the photos shows Williams lying naked on the bed, masturbating with a red panty believed to have belonged to his neighbour’s daughter. Fourteen of the photos he took that night show him “with his penis protruding from (stolen) underwear,” Morrison said.

As the photos flashed on the screen, a family member of the Cosy Cove victim sobbed at her seat in the courtroom. She left the courtroom during a break and didn’t return.

On Nov. 1, 2007, he broke into the home of another neighbour on Cosy Cove Lane. He spent at least two hours taking photographs in a bedroom.

“Here, Mr. Williams is kneeling on a bed wearing a camisole, with his penis in his hand,” Morrison told the court, describing the picture on the screen. “There are many similar photos.”

Morrison often noted Williams’ “obsession with organizing the items he stole,” first taking pictures of the whole stash he stole, and then taking pictures of each item individually.

“This is a process he carried out over and over again,” Morrison added.

Williams did everything to get into houses: he picked locks, he pushed through window screens and, often, he walked in through windows and doors left open. In many cases, the victims didn’t know they had been burglarized, and didn’t call police.

He left few clues, aside from a muddy footprint here and there. Forensic experts were unable to get DNA evidence from semen he left in one of the homes.

He was obsessed with gathering personal information of his young victims, often taking pictures of documents that identified them, or of the photos of family and friends they had in their rooms.

When he couldn’t identify girls he targeted, he would refer to them, in his computer, as “the mysterious little girls."

 
 

Colonel Russell Williams: The making of a mystery man

By Greg McArthur and Colin Freeze - Saturday's Globe and Mail

October 18, 2010

The fourth-floor personnel office at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus was a suitably staid place to work, so department manager June Hope could hardly expect what greeted her one morning when she arrived to unlock her door.

Everything – her desk, her computer and her chair – had vanished beneath a tangled mess of white paper that filled the room from floor to ceiling. Whoever had pulled this stunt had not only broken in the night before but spent hours crumpling computer paper until it formed the unwieldy mass that stood before her.

Just as Ms. Hope turned to announce her surprise to her co-workers, she heard a familiar sound. “Click.”

Behind the camera was the department's latest part-time hire, a polite and proper young man with strawberry blond hair the women on staff had taken a real shine to.

“Russ, do you not have anything better to do with your evenings than sit there rummaging through blank paper and filling my room with it?” Ms. Hope asked.

“No,” he replied.

In the late 1980s, Russell Williams was renowned for pulling off elaborate and clever practical jokes. Today, he is famous for something much more sinister. Although a decorated and high-ranking member of Canada's armed forces, he is charged with murder and confined to an Eastern Ontario jail cell. Two weeks ago he tried to commit suicide; now he is refusing to eat.

During his undergraduate years, the young man's pranks were the stuff of legend. He hid in dark closets so he could leap out and surprise unsuspecting roommates, and once woke at sunrise to slip a fertilized chicken egg into a friend's carton. Now, the 47-year-old air-force colonel is, according to police, a prime suspect in nearly 50 late-night break-ins from Belleville to Ottawa where, for more than three years, a cat burglar with an appetite for women's lingerie baffled investigators and dodged surveillance crews trying to catch him in the act. Windows were the primary point of entry, but on some occasions, the intruder picked the lock.

Col. Williams is charged with breaking into the homes of two women last September near his cottage in Tweed, a 30-minute drive north of Belleville. Police say the women were blindfolded, stripped and photographed in the nude.

He is also accused of creeping, more than a month later, into the home of a subordinate, Corporal Marie-France Comeau, an air force flight attendant who was beaten and wrapped in tape that covered her airways, suffocating her.

Finally, on the night of Jan. 28, a young woman named Jessica Lloyd went missing from her home on the highway between Col. Williams's cottage and his base. Her body was discovered in the brush not far from the cottage the same morning the colonel was charged with her murder and that of Cpl. Comeau.

The accusations shook the armed forces and the Canadian public. Col. Williams had been hand-picked and, in military parlance, “pipelined” into the upper echelons of the air force. He trained new pilots, flew the prime minister's plane and last summer was awarded command of 8-Wing Trenton, with 2,300 men and women the country's largest and busiest air-force base.

How is it possible that someone so polished and groomed for leadership could stand accused of such crimes?

An extensive examination of his early years involving interviews with dozens of former colleagues, friends and classmates as well as a review of court records, chronicles the evolution of a complicated and often contradictory young man known to wall off parts of his life, including a fractious and distant family. He was almost obsessively neat and orderly, but also at times, an irrepressible rascal.

Today his small group of old friends and acquaintances can't help but wonder about the gags, many of which involved infiltrating someone's private space. But back then there was no question: It was all just a joke.

Small town, big drama

Deep River, Ont., was a company town that sprang up in great secrecy in the 1940s along with the nearby laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. Visitors had to travel 200 kilometres northwest of Ottawa along a two-lane highway, pass through a checkpoint and dodge the occasional moose. The town was strategically situated next to Camp Petawawa, the army base that served as the first line of defence if anyone tried to attack what was then one of world's great nuclear secrets.

After the Second World War, Deep River's population exploded with the arrival of a wave of scientists hand-picked to split atoms and develop new ways to generate electricity. After a hard day in the lab, many could be found in tiny white boats that dotted the Ottawa River. Among the sailors were Dave Williams, a British metallurgist, and Jerry Sovka, an Alberta farm boy turned nuclear visionary, who competed together in a two-man racing dinghy known as an International 14.

Outgoing and a charmer, Mr. Williams sang in the glee club and acted in a community theatre group, drawing praise for his “sense of comic timing” from The North Renfrew Times. Mr. Sovka, a round-faced graduate of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a fierce competitor and a leading scorer for the Deep River Neutrons, a basketball team.

Mr. Williams and his wife, Christine, also British and an avid tennis player, had two children, Russell and young brother Harvey. They lived a block and a half from Jerry and Lynn Sovka and their kids.

“The Sovkas and Williams ... were good friends,” recalls another former Deep River sailor. “They were together, both families, a fair bit.”

The two couples epitomized the “high-energy, high-performance people” – as a former colleague describes them – who made Deep River unique. With a population of just 5,000, it supported more than 60 clubs and teams, and residents boasted that theirs was the only small-town stop on the national ballet's circuit.

There was a downside. Inflated minds begat inflated egos, and the town developed a class system. A former resident once told Canadian Geographic magazine that she was shocked when asked by her little boy one day what a PhD was. A woman had come up and asked him, “Is your father a PhD?” and when he couldn't answer, said: “Well, be off with you then. My children only play with other PhDs."

At other times, social conventions were relaxed, extremely relaxed. On the hexagonal dance floor at the Deep River Yacht and Tennis Club, for example, the moves could get racy. “The Brits brought ... a freer kind of [culture],” one former scientist says. “If you went to a dance, you didn't just dance with your wife. You danced with three or four other partners.”

And things could go too far. “One or two dances with one person – that would be one thing. But if you're having half a dozen, you're having a little bit too much fun with … someone else's wife.”

The sexual tension wasn't limited to the dance floor. Young people housed in AECL's dormitories as late as the 1970s have a website where, as well as their current whereabouts, they list their old “hotel romance partners.”

Many marriages blossomed, but others succumbed to temptation, and on Oct. 31, 1969, Christine Williams filed for divorce. This was several years before the age of “no fault,” and Ontario judges demanded a reason for dissolving a union. Mrs. Williams cited “adultery” – court documents show her husband was having an affair with Lynn Sovka – and within months, she'd sold him her share of the house and moved to Scarborough, then a Toronto suburb.

But she didn't leave alone. Not only did she have custody of the boys, on June 2, 1970, a little more than four months after her divorce was final, she married – Jerry Sovka. After sharing a boat, the sailing partners had ended up with each other's wives – news that “swept the town like wildfire,” another ex-sailor recalls.

Lynn Sovka's relationship with Dave Williams fizzled, but Christine and Jerry would be together nearly 30 years.

As for Russell, at the tender age of 7, he had a new home and new name. His mother changed hers completely, making her middle name her first to become Nonie Sovka.

‘Thought he was better’

At some schools, he would have been labelled a band geek, but fortunately for Russ Sovka, music carried a lot of weight at Birchmount Collegiate Institute. Led by a colourful and highly respected teacher named Christopher Kitts, the band travelled widely, performing for ball fans at New York's Shea Stadium and flying to Germany to win a competition in Frankfurt.

In his first year of high school, the young trumpet player leapfrogged to the senior band, but made it clear that he had no time for fooling around. The future practical joker developed a reputation as a snob – a label that would stick into his adulthood.

“I know he kind of thought of himself as being better than other people. That was part of the reason why I didn't care for him,” says Tony Callahan, a percussionist who rose to the senior band with him. “There was just an air about him, the way he talked... It was almost the way he would roll his eyes at you if you said something. He was condescending.”

Not everyone shared that opinion. Every day after band practice, young Russ would walk home with his girlfriend, a flute player who lived a few blocks from him (now a Toronto-area teacher, she declined to be interviewed).

Despite his musical success, Russell's mother let it be known to neighbours that she didn't think highly of Birchmount. Half of the school's families were affluent, most living near the Scarborough Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario, but other students came with rougher edges. For every high-achieving disciple of Mr. Kitts, there was another kid who spent most of the day in the school's smoking area.

Jerry and Nonie Sovka had entrenched themselves in Toronto's sailing scene, as members of the upscale Boulevard Club, and Russ and Harvey were constantly on the move. Their mother, elegantly dressed with her hair in a bun, “made sure they did the right activities,” a former neighbour says. “I remember them taking tennis lessons. ... She had them doing stuff all the time."

As Russell reached Grade 11, the Birchmount problem was solved when the family left for South Korea, where his stepfather had been hired to oversee the construction of a nuclear plant in Pusan. The boys attended a school for expatriate children, but Russell later described the year abroad as “not a happy experience.” He was teased by Korean kids and called a Yankee, and he told a roommate in university he was disgusted at how Korean men spit at Caucasian women. (“I found that hard to believe,” the roommate now says.) The few reminders of Asia that he brought back included a love of baseball, a kimono he used as a housecoat and an Aiwa stereo that he cherished.

Back in Toronto, his parents decided to send him and brother Harvey to boarding school, choosing one that would have appealed to his more serious sensibilities – Upper Canada College, which has honed young minds from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and grocery magnate Galen Weston Jr. to jailed media tycoon Conrad Black.

Although the family had no ties with the elite school for boys, which is expensive and has high standards for enrolment, a family member says Mr. Sovka's impressive CV helped to “persuade” administrators of the children's potential. Russell was assigned a corner room in Wedd's House, one of UCC's dorms, but didn't exactly fit in.

“At a boarding school, a lot of guys like to goof around and have some fun,” says his former roommate, speaking on condition he not be named. “He was always serious and didn't really get into the banter, joking and friendship aspect of it all."

The two boys had little in common: Russ liked playing his trumpet and studying, while the roommate was into girls. Russ listened to the same Diana Ross song over and over, irritating someone with a taste for The Clash and Talking Heads. He also folded his laundry fastidiously, while across the room, junk piled up. The only time they were forced to be together, the nightly study hour, was spent in silence.

Their differences were superficial and surmountable, but Russ refused to open up. “My parents had just gotten divorced … so theoretically we had something in common,” the roommate explains. “I don't think it was something that he even raised with me.”

He contends that Russ “lacked any social skills whatsoever. It was very difficult to have just a basic conversation with him. … I can't even recall him having a single person he spent a lot of time with.”

All the former UCC bandmates, teachers and staff who agreed to discuss Russell Williams agreed that they could think of no one close to him. The future military man didn't join the cadet corps.

In his final year, he served as a prefect, a position often decided by student vote. But UCC alumni recall that he was selected by the staff, and moved to a floor reserved for students in Grades 9 and 10, to keep the youngsters in check.

UCC has an active alumni network that maintains a password-protected, online database that “old boys” can use to keep track of each other. There is no contact information for Russ. He is listed as “lost."

Sudden transformation

If the first few weeks were any indication, Russ Sovka was destined to experience the same isolation as a student at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus.

He was assigned to live with five other students in unit C8, a townhouse in a sea of brown brick residence buildings. Before his roommates had a chance even to figure out where their classes were, he announced who was buying meals that week, who was scheduled to do the cooking and how they would rotate through the jobs he had assigned each of them.

“I thought, ‘This is one dude that I'm going to keep my distance from,' just because he was a little bossy,” recalls Jeff Farquhar, who was among those on the duty roster.

He was so orderly, focused and authoritative – keeping his own room spotless and persuading his roommates to wear slippers – that nicknames came fast and furious: Drill Sergeant, Sergeant Major and Mother Goose.

It got so bad that Mr. Farquhar, destined to become a close friend, says he teased him about being obsessive compulsive. “I don't know if he was diagnosed, but I know damn well, without being a doctor, that if he's not, I don't know who could be.”

Then something changed. For some reason, Russ lightened up a bit. Armed with his trumpet, he gathered a dozen students and, outfitted with garbage-can lids and drum sticks, they paraded around campus blasting the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. He regularly unleashed his high-pitched laugh – a half-gasp, half-eruption that some of his roommates can imitate to this day.

He still abstained from partying, studied with the discipline of a monk and folded his laundry with intense precision, but he lost a bit of the edge that had turned people off.

That wasn't all. Within weeks, Russ Sovka went back to calling himself Russ Williams. No one asked why, and he offered no explanation.

He also started to expand his repertoire of pranks and became known for what one friend called his “off-the-wall sense of humour."

When one roommate kept coming home late, he gathered the others to watch as he disassembled the lock on their front door and adjusted it to work with the key to their laundry room. “How did he know how to work the tumblers on the lock?” Mr. Farquhar asks. “There were four of us staring at the tumblers, watching him do it. And we were asking questions like, ‘How's this going to work?' and ‘Are you sure?'”

He was. The nighthawk had to spend part of the night sleeping on the front lawn.

For some pranks, he was a traditionalist – Saran-wrapping the toilet bowl or trapping a roommate in his room with a girl by jamming pennies into the doorframe to stop the knob from turning. But he could also innovate, convincing another roommate that he had shattered Mr. Farquhar's mirror when in fact the cracks had been drawn with a prank pen and were easily erased.

The hits just kept coming. When one of his friends prepared a vodka mix in a wineskin for a long bus trip, he replaced the booze with water and vinegar. If a can of Coke were neglected, before long he was pouring in soya sauce.

But all that was fairly tame compared with the gag he pulled repeatedly in his last year as an undergrad.

“He'd go into my room, stand in the closet and later I'd come in and start studying at my desk, and he could be there for maybe half an hour, and then push open the closet door and scare the hell out of me,” Mr. Farquhar says.

“I'd be on the ceiling and he'd be laughing his head off.”

In fact, he burst out of his roommates' closets so frequently that they started pulling the same prank on him. Finally, they adopted a Waltons routine: To ensure that no one was still lurking in the shadows, they all climbed into bed and, mimicking the famed TV family, calling out “good night” to each other.

They also closed ranks when tragedy struck. One roommate lost a teenage sister to bone cancer, and Russell was among those who routinely trekked out to the family's home near Stirling, Ont., to offer condolences and support.

If this seemed odd, it was only because his own family didn't seem to be a factor in his life. Some of his friends vaguely remember his stepfather worked on reactors in Korea, but that was it. Once they brought up his parents' divorce but never made that mistake again. “I do recall the topic being painful,” one roommate says. “He didn't really want to talk about it.”

When the Christmas exodus rolled around, Russ usually stayed put. The same was true for summer vacation, and despite what his friends expected of a UCC alumnus, he picked up part-time jobs – at the library, alongside the ladies in the personnel office and in the athletics department.

As for money, he accounted for every penny, literally. Upon returning from the local sports bar, he would pull out a clipboard and write down how much he had spent on chicken wings and two (never more) bottles of Labatt 50. “He had his whole life with him in residence,” Mr. Farquhar says.

By the time he had his degree in politics and economics, his stepfather had become chief engineer of another big project – the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope perched atop a dormant volcano. His biological father, meanwhile, had remarried and was living in Schenectady, N.Y., corporate headquarters of General Electric, where he worked.

His roommates remember no parental visits, and Mr. Farquhar says the one trip his friend made to Hawaii “flabbergasted” him simply because Russ so rarely left campus and never spent that much money.

It was unclear whether family relations were strained, his detachment was a product of his independence or some of both. “The only thing that stuck out is that he seemed a bit lonely …,” one roommate says. “He rarely, if at all, talked about his family.”

But there was a plus to being on campus so much. During one of the early breaks, when everyone else was back in their hometowns, his roommates recall that he met a young woman who would be his girlfriend until his final year.

What made him cry

The juxtaposition was striking. He hovered around 6 feet, with a wiry build from all his squash, tennis and jogging. She was a student from Japan, more than a foot shorter.

But in her company the “Drill Sergeant” seemed to be drained of his authority, the roommates say. He was a different person with her around.

“She ran him like a whipped horse. It was always her way or the highway, and he was always trying to acquiesce,” Mr. Farquhar says. “And she always wanted to hit the books harder and didn't have a lot of time left over for Russ. That's what I always remember him saying. … There was always an argument of finding time to do things together.”

The girl rarely spent the night at their place, the roommates say, and Russ often came home late, clearly disappointed that he was alone. Still, he was deeply offended when one day a roommate came to her townhouse to collect him and yelled up the stairs: “Come on, Russ. Get your pants on.”

“You never saw them touch each other physically in public,” another roommate recalls.

Then, when they were in fourth year, the girlfriend decided the relationship was over, crushing Russ and prompting him to withdraw completely. He would return from class, lock himself in his room with his treasured stereo and Bjorn Borg poster, and not emerge until the next day. It was the only time one friend ever heard him cry.

He campaigned to win her back but failed. A dozen long-stemmed roses were sent back, and when he began to appear just as her lectures were ending, she tracked down Mr. Farquhar and said: “Make him stop."

Today the former girlfriend declines to comment on the relationship or how Russell reacted to the breakup: “All I can say is, whatever my experience was, I don't think it will be of any use.”

But Mr. Farquhar recalls the fallout period as “a very upsetting time for him. He wasn't dating anyone.” If the guys were going out to dinner or a dance, he stayed home. “I remember saying to him at one point, ‘You know, you don't even have to take a date.' And he said, ‘No. I'm not going. I don't want to go.' So I'd just leave it alone.”

This resistance continued even after university, says Mr. Farquhar, who kept in close touch with Russ and last saw him this summer at the Tweed cottage. It wasn't until about four years after the breakup, when Russ met his current wife, Mary Elizabeth Harriman, that he resumed dating, he says.

It was also an extremely spooky time on the Scarborough campus, which had been rocked by a succession of attacks and unsolved rapes. At night, male students were escorting women home from class.

Several years later, infamous serial killer Paul Bernardo, who graduated from the school in 1987, a year after Russell, confessed to having committed several of the sex crimes. (Shortly after Col. Williams was arrested, the Toronto Sun reported that the two had been “pals” as students and “partied” together, but according to the roommates, it's unlikely they even met. “If he had known Bernardo, I would have known Bernardo,” Mr. Farquhar insists.)

After earning his degree, Russ spent another year in Scarborough trying to decide what to do with his life. He lived alone in a basement apartment, working part-time at the university and waiting on tables at Red Lobster.

He applied to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and underwent a rigorous background check and interviews only to turn down an offer of employment, the roommates say. He was still waiting to hear back from his first choice.

An uncle of Mr. Farquhar owned a Cessna and had, on occasion, let Russ take the controls while in the air. And Hollywood provided some added inspiration just as his interest in flying was taking off – he went to see Top Gun over and over.

It was not lost on his friends that, for most of the movie, the fighter pilot played by Tom Cruise persists in his attempt to win the affection of a senior, flight instructor.

Mr. Farquhar says that “I used to joke about it behind his back: ‘Oh shit, he thinks this is going to win [his ex-girl friend] back. He's going to show up in his F14.'”

And before the year was out, Russ Williams got the call. The practical joker with a penchant for carefully folded shirts decamped for basic training at CFB Chilliwack.

His rapid ascent in the military makes it clear that the orderly, hyper-organized half of his personality persisted and prospered.

His old friends and acquaintances are left to wonder what became of the prankster.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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