Russell Williams (criminal)
|Born||David Russell Williams
March 7, 1963
Bromsgrove, England, United Kingdom
|Service branch||Canadian Forces Air Command (now Royal Canadian Air Force)|
|Years of service||1987–2010|
|Commands held||CFB Trenton, Camp Mirage|
|Awards||Canadian Forces Decoration With 1 Clasp (revoked)
South-West Asia Service Medal With "AFGHANISTAN" Clasp (revoked)
|Span of killings||November 25, 2009 – January 28, 2010|
|Apprehended||February 8, 2010|
David Russell Williams (born March 7, 1963) is an English-born Canadian convicted murderer, rapist, and former Colonel in the Canadian Forces. From July 2009 to his arrest in February 2010, he commanded CFB Trenton, a hub for air transport operations in Canada and abroad and the country's largest and busiest military airbase. Williams was also a decorated military pilot who had flown Canadian Forces VIP aircraft for dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and the Governor General and Prime Minister of Canada.
On February 8, 2010, he was relieved as the base commander at CFB Trenton due to criminal charges. He was formally charged by the Ontario Provincial Police, pursuant to the Criminal Code, with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of forcible confinement, two counts of breaking and entering, and sexual assault; another 82 charges relating to breaking and entering were later 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 breaking and entering, all to be served concurrently. 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 "faint hope clause" of the 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.
Early life and education
Williams was born in Bromsgrove, England, to Christine Nonie (née Chivers) and Cedric David Williams. His family emigrated to Canada, where they moved to Chalk River, Ontario. His father was hired as a metallurgist at Chalk River Laboratories, Canada's premiere 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 Dr. Jerry Sovka. During this time Williams took on the name Sovka from his stepfather, 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 a prefect for his boarding house. Williams then studied economics and political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1986.
On June 1, 1991 he married Mary Elizabeth Harriman, who is an associate director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. According to Williams' biography that had been posted on the Department of National Defence website, he was a keen photographer, fisherman and runner, and he and his wife Mary Elizabeth were 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 the National Defence Headquarters. He served at the Airlift Capability Projects Strategic (CC-177 Globemaster III) and Tactical (CC-130J Hercules J), and Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue.
In December 2010, Williams' wife began the process of filing for divorce, together with a request to have any of her financial and medical information sealed by the court.
Williams was regarded as a model military officer over the course of his 23-year career. He enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1987, and 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.
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, Ontario, 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. CFB Trenton is Canada's busiest air transport 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 had 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
A 27-year-old, Jessica Lloyd, went missing on January 28, 2010. Investigators identified distinctive tire tracks left in snow near her home. One week after her disappearance, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) 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, 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 at Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee, Ontario, after he tried to kill himself by wedging a stuffed cardboard toilet paper roll down his throat.
On February 7, 2010, Williams was interrogated at Ottawa Police Service headquarters by Detective Staff Sergeant Jim Smyth. 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 police where they 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 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 had progressed from break-ins to sexual assaults with no penetration to rape and murder. He had kept detailed track of police reports of the crimes he was committing, logged his crimes, kept photos and videos, and had 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 had taken thousands of pictures of his crimes, and had kept the photos on his computer. Crown Attorney Robert Morrison presented numerous pictures of Williams dressed in the various pieces of 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.
The Canadian Forces stripped Williams of his rank and medals and later dismissed him in disgrace (dishonorable discharge). Before his discharge, he was visited and examined by a military doctor in Kingston Penitentiary, as all outgoing military personnel must undergo a medical examination.
Consequently, Williams' uniform was burned, his medals were also later cut into pieces, his commission scroll (a document confirming his status as a serving officer) was shredded, and his Pathfinder was crushed and scrapped.
Williams currently collects a $60,000 annual military pension. In May 2010, he and his wife also split their real estate holdings, leaving Williams the sole owner of their cottage in Tweed and his wife the sole owner of their Ottawa townhouse. Williams refused to pay $8,000 in victim surcharge fines, resulting in action being taken against him by a collection agency.
Williams was initially incarcerated at Kingston Penitentiary, in the prison's segregation unit. After the prison began the process of closing, he was moved to a maximum-security prison in Port-Cartier, Quebec.
On May 10, 2012, the Canadian Forces announced that it had made a "terrible mistake" by publishing a booklet with a photograph bearing the likeness of Williams in the background, and ordered 4,000 copies of the book destroyed. The photograph was incidental to the subject matter of the book, but the image was felt to be offensive.
A television movie adaptation of the Williams case, entitled An Officer and a Murderer and with American actor Gary Cole in the lead role, was premiered on Lifetime Network on July 21, 2012. The Movie Network premiere was planned in August, but was cancelled following the reaction to the US premiere.
Canadian investigative news program The Fifth Estate released an episode titled "Russell Williams – Above Suspicion" on September 24, 2010. American investigative news programs 48 Hours aired "Name, Rank and Serial Killer?" on April 9, 2011 and on August 13, 2015 Dateline NBC aired a piece covering the Williams case, titled "Conduct Unbecoming". CBS Reality show, 'I Survived' Series 5, Episode 8 features a victim recounting her story of Williams attacking her in her home.
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- 'Terrible mistake': DND booklet shows Russell Williams at CTV.ca; published May 9, 2012; retrieved April 23, 2014
- 'Office Space' star in Russell Williams movie
- Canadian network nixes Russell Williams movie
- Russell Williams - Full Murder Confession
- Russell Williams Confession Part 1
- Russell Williams Confession Part 2
- Russell Williams Confession Part 3
- Russell Williams Arrest Announcement
- "Russell Williams - Above Suspicion" episode from CBC program The Fifth Estate
- Russell Williams interview transcript
|Wing Commander of No. 8 Wing at CFB Trenton
July 2009–February 2010
D B Cochrane