Queen’s pilot was a serial killer
AS HIS wife slept soundly in their bed, Colonel Russell Williams stalked his neighbourhood, breaking into houses and stealing underwear from women and young girls.
He would take photos of himself modelling the underwear, and meticulously file and store the garments in his family home, logging the crimes and keeping copies of police reports of these break-ins.
After a few years, he graduated to sexual assault and eventually murder.
Williams worked as a highly-decorated military pilot for the Canadian Forces. In his service to the Commonwealth, he often flew Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and the Prime Minister of Canada. Williams was well-regarded, respected, and had high level security clearance.
Russell Williams and his wife would often split their time between their home in Ottawa, and a cottage they owned in Tweed, a two-and-a-half hour drive away. Williams enjoyed an enviable 23-year career in the military air force.
He was promoted to captain within a year of his first posting, and by July 2009, aged 47, he had risen to Wing Commander of Canada's busiest air transport base.
This was just two months before Williams committed his first violent sex crime.
One night in September, 2007, Williams broke into the home of a family friend, and stole underwear belonging to their 12-year-old daughter. He then proceed to break into 48 separate houses a total of 82 times, his crimes quickly becoming more brazen and depraved over a two-year period.
He took thousands of photographs of himself in the bedrooms of many women, but also in those of girls at young as 9; photos of him modelling their underwear, lying in their beds naked, and masturbating in their rooms.
In the photos of him modelling, he adopts two main poses: an over-the-shoulder glance, and a military-type stance.
Williams stored thousands of these photos on his computer, which is where the police came upon them, and began to realise the scope of his crimes.
WILLIAMS GRADUATES TO SEXUAL ASSAULT
Williams had been breaking into nearby homes for two years before he committed his first physical sexual assault, in September, 2009.
He broke into a nearby home and beat the 21-year-old resident over the head, binding her hands, and grabbing her breasts.
He then photographed her topless, and left. He committed a similar sexual assault two weeks later on another victim, before graduating to murder.
As with his first break-in victim, he chose someone he'd met before.
Marie-France Comeau was a 37-year-old military flight attendant who worked under Colonel Williams' command.
He had only met her once before, but noticed when she mentioned she lived alone. In mid-November, he broke into her house, took photos in her underwear, and left.
A week later, he returned to her house, and knocked her out with a flashlight.
Williams then beat, raped, and suffocated her. He left her body, and fled.
In late January, 2010, Colonel Russell Williams killed 27-year-old Jessica Lloyd, his second and final victim.
As he later told police, he found her "cute" and so decided to rape, torture and kill her. He filmed portions of the 20-hour ordeal, a tape police later found in the house he shared with his wife. After strangling her to death, Williams put Lloyd's body in the garage of his Tweed cottage, and drove to the military base, where he reported for work.
Life resumed as normal: he flew the following day, a Saturday, then returned home and spend a leisurely weekend with his wife.
He worked again Monday, and on Tuesday, returned to Tweed and dumped Jessica Lloyd's body in a forest near his holiday cottage.
POLICE BEGIN TO CLOSE IN ON WILLIAMS
By Thursday, the game was up for Williams, although he didn't know it yet.
Despite having staged 82 break-ins over two-and-a-half years, Williams wasn't too skilled at covering his tracks.
He had left rather distinctive boot prints and tyre marks in the snow near Lloyd's house, and was stopped that Thursday during a police sweep of the area.
Williams' tyres seemed to be a match, and he was summoned for police questioning that Sunday.
If Williams was nervous about the prospect of being charged with murder, he didn't betray it.
"I have never been in a room like this", he tells detector sergeant Jim Smyth as he enters the interrogation room, comparing it to the time he was interviewed "for top-secret clearance" by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.
He declined the opportunity to call legal representation, joking he only had a realty lawyer.
He cordially gave over his blood and fingerprints.
He let detectives photocopy the sole of his boots; the same boots he wore when killing Jessica Lloyd.
His initial tone was lighthearted, but over a methodical ten-hour interview, Smyth had elicited a complete confession from Williams, based on the tyre print matching his Pathfinder, and comparing photos of the footprints to Williams' boots.
"Your vehicle drove up the side of Jessica Lloyd's house. Your boots walked to the back of Jessica Lloyd's house", Smyth tells a stunned Williams.
"You want discretion, we need to have some honesty."
"Hmm, I don't know what to say," Williams says.
"As it is put to him that a warrant had already been issued and that police were currently searching his home.
"The home in which he had stashed dozens of pairs of women's underwear, the home he shared with his wife, who was currently being made aware of the situation." Smyth says, laying it out the situation bluntly.
"Russell, you know there's only one option."
Williams' confession is disturbingly calm, with horrific acts detailed without emotion.
He admits to the two murders, the sexual assaults, and to breaking into a series of homes in order to steal underwear. He admits to stripping naked and masturbating.
At one point he refers to Lloyd as a "very nice girl", adding, "I think I killed her because I knew her story would be recognised.
"She knew I was taking pictures."
Of Corporal Marie-France Comeau, the flight attendant he killed, he explained: "I only met her once. She said she lived alone."
THE TRIAL OF RUSSELL WILLIAMS
Before his trial started, Williams wrote letters to the relatives of his two murder victims, no doubt under advisement from his legal team.
These letters were chilling in their callous appropriation of emotion.
Writing to Jessica Lloyd's mother, Williams unwittingly highlights the horrific circumstances of how he entered and extinguished her life.
"I know she loved you very much," he wrote. "She told me so, again and again."
By the time of his court case, in October 2010, Williams had suddenly gained some empathy for his victims.
At least this is how he portrayed himself, telling the court he was "indescribably ashamed" for his "despicable" crimes.
"I caution the court and the public that these facts will be extremely disturbing," the crown lawyer warned at the start of the trial.
"ONE OF THE WORST OFFENDERS IN CANADIAN HISTORY"
Crown prosecutor Lee Burgess referred to Williams as "simply one of the worst offenders in Canadian history," detailing how he exploited his decorated position "to divert suspicion from himself."
The court were shown the numerous explicit photographs seized from Williams' house, as well as Polaroids taken of his methodical cataloguing system. As the crown lawyer warned, it was extremely disturbing.
"He was a leader," Burgess stresses.
Justice Robert Scott agreed with Burgess, sentencing Williams to two concurrent life sentences.
He was charged with two counts of murder, two of forcible confinement and sexual assault, and 82 counts of break and enter.
"Russell Williams will forever be remembered as a sadosexual serial killer", he declared.
"The depths of depravity demonstrated by Russell Williams have no equal."
Williams cried as the verdict was read out.
During his confession to police, Williams showed far less emotion. He admits he couldn't say whether he'd have stopped murdering women had he not been caught. "I was hoping not, but I can't answer the question," he answers, honestly.
When asked if he had thought about what impulses drove him to commit these crimes, he confessed he spent time pondering it, but hadn't arrived at any solid answers.
"And I'm pretty sure the answers don't matter."
Williams has since been stripped of his military rank and various awards he won over the years.
His uniform and medals were ceremoniously burnt, and he received no severance pay.
Despite his misuse of power, and horrific crimes, Colonel Russell Williams still receives a full military pension of AU$85,000 a year.
- Nathan Jolly is a Sydney-based writer who specialises in true crime, pop culture, music history, and true romance. Follow him on Twitter @nathanjolly