One of Canada’s most senior military figures has been accused of being a sexual predator responsible for up to ten murders.
By Nick Allen in Los Angeles for www.thetimes.co.uk
In a case that has shocked and transfixed the nation, British-born Colonel Russell Williams has been charged with two killings but police think they may be more.
Detectives are re-examining up to eight unsolved murders and dozens of sex crimes across Canada stretching back three decades.
His arrest marked a fall from grace for the elite Canadian Air Force commander who once flew the Queen across the Atlantic.
Col Williams, 47, was the commander in charge of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, near Toronto, which is the country’s largest military airbase and provides support for its operations in Afghanistan and Haiti.
The married father of four, has been relieved of duty and is being kept in jail ahead of a civilian trial.
The colonel was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, and his parents both attended Birmingham University.
His family emigrated to Canada when he was four and he later embarked on a highly decorated 23-year military career, spending a decade at the controls of VIP flights carrying the Prime Minister and Governor General.
In 2005, he picked up the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in the UK and flew them to Canada to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
He is charged with the first-degree murder of Corporal Marie Comeau, 38, who was a flight attendant under his command on VIP military flights. She was found dead at her home near the Trenton base in November.
He is also alleged to have murdered Jessica Lloyd, 27, a civilian who worked for a bus company. Her body was found by a roadside near the base in February. Both women were strangled.
The two sexual assault victims are alleged to have been attacked in their homes in September last year.
They were both bound with duct tape, blindfolded with pillow cases and tied to chairs by a masked intruder, alleged to have been Col Williams, who took photographs of them.
The colonel was an avid amateur photographer and police are examining his computer.
Another of his alleged victims has already lodged a £1.6 million civil suit against him, claiming she was sexually assaulted for two hours while her young daughter slept upstairs.
He also faces 82 charges of repeated break-ins at 47 homes in the capital Ottawa and Tweed, Ontario, a small town near the base where the colonel had a cottage.
Some of the break-ins were on Cosy Cove Lane, the road where he lived, and mostly took place on Friday and Saturday nights. He is alleged to have broken into one property nine times. Victims said their underwear drawers were rifled and lingerie stolen.
Col Williams was arrested after being stopped during a random police roadblock and police found the tyres of his Nissan Pathfinder matched a distinctive track in the snow near one of the murder scenes.
Among the previously unsolved killings now being reinvestigated is the 2001 rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman at the Trenton base.
They are also investigating unsolved crimes near Col Williams’ previous postings.
Between December 2005 and June 2006 he was the commanding officer of Camp Mirage, a secretive Canadian military base near Dubai.
Since his arrest Col Williams, who has yet to enter a plea, has tried to commit suicide in prison by jamming a cardboard lavatory roll tube down his throat. He also began a hunger strike.
The charges against him have left Canada’s military in a state of shock. He had been described by one superior as a “shining bright star.”
General Walter Natynczyk, Canada’s chief of defence staff, said: “Emotionally it’s very difficult to deal with. We go forward, and we are proud to wear our uniform.”