The dark, depraved side of Russell Williams revealed in court

WARNING: Contains graphic testimony that may be disturbing to some readers


 

Four days before Russell Williams took command of CFB Trenton, he stood in a neighbour’s backyard for at least half an hour, staring through an open window. It was dark, after midnight, and when the woman inside climbed into a shower, Williams pounced. He stripped naked, headed for the bedroom, and fled the scene with a single pair of black underwear. “Very tempting to take her panties/bra from bathroom,” Williams later wrote on his computer. “Decided it would be entirely obvious that someone was in the house while she was in the shower—took panties from panty drawer instead…”

Later that week, Williams was handed control of the country’s largest and most important airbase. At the time, nobody—not his wife of 18 years, not his close friends, and certainly not the military brass—had any idea that the colonel was harbouring a dark, depraved secret: he was a compulsive sexual predator who stalked his female victims, stole their lingerie, and spent countless hours photographing himself while wearing their bras, dresses and underwear. Some of the bedrooms he targeted belonged to girls as young as 11 years old.

Tragically, Williams’ promotion to the top job at Trenton also marked a turning point in his criminal life. As the disgraced officer later confessed to detectives, when he stood in that backyard on July 11, 2009 (his clothes lying on the ground beside him) his predatory behaviour was “escalating.” He wanted, as he put it, “to take more risks”—and in the weeks to come, he would do just that. By the time police figured out the truth in February 2010, Williams had sexually assaulted two women as they slept in their homes, and raped and murdered two others: Marie-France Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal stationed at his base, and Jessica Lloyd, 27.

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On Monday morning, Williams officially pleaded guilty to all 88 charges he faces, including two counts of first-degree murder that carry a mandatory sentence of life behind bars with no possibility of parole for 25 years (when he will be 72 years old). And for the first time, Crown attorneys revealed dozens of “extremely disturbing” photographs and other graphic evidence detailing Williams’ perverted double life—and how it quickly evolved from underwear burglaries to cold-blooded murder.

“I caution the public that these facts will be extremely disturbing and will cause further emotional pain,” warned Crown Attorney Lee Burgess. Behind him, in a bulletproof prisoners’ box, Williams sat hunched over, his eyes staring at the ground.

The colonel was meticulous. He planned his targets, staked out houses “where attractive young women lived,” and took a similar pattern of pictures during each heist: first he photographed the bedroom, then the underwear drawer, and then the stolen items, placed in perfectly neat piles. He would then turn the camera on himself. In many of the shots, he can be seen lying on a victims’ bed, masturbating with her lingerie; during one robbery, Williams wiped a girl’s make-up brush on his erect penis. “There is nothing in the evidence to suggest the make-up brush was stolen,” said Robert Morrison, another Crown Attorney. “It was left in her room to use again.”

RELATED: Russell Williams’s victims hoped photo evidence would remain sealed

Williams told police that he preferred women in their late teens to early 30s. However, Morrison pointed out that “females under the age of 18 were either the sole or joint targets of Mr. Williams in 13 of the homes he broke into.” His first two burglaries, in the summer of 2007, targeted the bedroom of a 12-year-old girl who lived directly beside his Tweed cottage (Williams and his wife, Mary-Elizabeth Harriman, were close friends with the girls’ parents, and the mother, in the courtroom on Monday, wiped away tears as photos of her daughter’s room were displayed on two big-screen televisions). His third and fourth break-ins targeted 11-year-old twin girls; Williams photographed himself wearing their underwear.

Every image was more horrifying than the next. Williams lying naked on a girl’s bed, surrounded by her underwear and a large stuffed animal. Williams sniffing and licking a pair of blood-stained panties, and then wrapping them around his face like a balaclava. Williams wearing someone’s Tweetie bird underwear. Williams in an undisclosed wooded area, posing in his latest batch of stolen panties. Before leaving one crime scene, he typed a one-word message on young girl’s computer: “Merci.”

With each new crime, Williams grew more confident—and more daring. He kept a file of police press releases detailing some of his break-ins, an obvious symbol of pride. But he clearly craved more. In September 2009, just two weeks before he graduated to sexual assault, Williams almost claimed a different victim: a 14-year-old girl.

The unnamed girl lived a short walk from Williams’ cottage, and in his own words, he had wanted to raid her bedroom “for a long time.” On Sept. 1, after numerous unsuccessful attempts, he finally managed to get inside. He left the house with five pieces of lingerie—but didn’t actually leave the property. Instead, he hovered in the backyard, took off his clothes and masturbated while waiting for the girl to get home. Her dad arrived instead.

A detective later asked Williams what he planned to do if the girl’s father had not foiled his plan. “Mr. Williams refused to answer the question,” a prosecutor said.

He was a rising star in the Canadian air force, an elite officer who ferried prime ministers and the Queen and later advised DND on the acquisition of multi-million-dollar aircrafts. Williams’ work ethic was legendary, to the point where some colleagues jokingly wondered if he ever slept. “He never showed fatigue,” said one fellow air force officer. “It was a different sort of metabolism at work, and you just assumed it wasn’t nefarious in any way. You thought it was a positive thing.”

Tragically, it was not. Despite the grueling demands of his high-profile posting, Williams found ample time to feed his violent sexual obsession—and then report to work the next morning with the same smile and the same can-do attitude that motivated so many of his subordinates. In one photo disclosed by prosecutors, Williams is wearing a pair of pink panties underneath what appears to be his blue air force uniform.

Williams showed no emotion as the photos were unveiled—one by one, hour by hour. Shackled at the wrists and ankles (but still sporting a military crew cut) he rarely took his eyes off the floor. If he did look up, it was only for a brief moment.

The Crown finished the day’s proceedings with counts 73 and 74 of the charge sheet: Williams’ first sexual assault. It occurred in the early morning of Sept. 17—just hours after the colonel returned from a two-day trip to the North Pole—at the home of 21-year-old woman whose name is protected by a publication ban. Her boyfriend was working out of town that week, and she was alone with her 8-week-old daughter.

Williams briefly watched her sleep, then tied her up, blindfolded her, and took off her clothes. The woman tried to talk him out of it, saying “she was fat, having just had a baby.” Williams assured her that “she was perfect and sweet,” and then proceeded to take photos of her naked body. (After his arrest, he told police that he had initially spotted the woman while out on his boat, and “thought she was cute.”)

On Tuesday, prosecutors will continue reading the “agreed statement of facts,” including details about Williams’ second sexual assault and his progression to murder.

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The dark, depraved side of Russell Williams revealed in court

  1. Why was Williams not subject to military law as well? A serving senior officer that kills a subordinate should be subject to courts martial. The death penalty should be possible for this type of treasonous act. He will spend the rest of his life in relative comfort in the way Olson and Bernardo do. He should at the very least be in military prison.

  2. That is what I am trying to figure out too. In one article I read it claimed in some of the photographs you can see some of his Uniform. Not to mention he murdered a fellow soldier.

  3. Williams is an example of why prison is not a deterrence and does not prevent crimes like this. Building more prisons will not stop the next Williams. Too bad more time and money isn't being devoted to prevention.

    What should the military be doing differently? How much does the culture in the military contribute to preventing someone like Williams from seeking help long before his behaviour escalated to the level it did? Because the sensationalism is much more interesting, important questions won't be asked or answered.

    • Why assume the military had anything to do with this? Other well-known serial killers in this country (Olsen, Bernard) have never been in the military. As for longer sentences, they may not deter the likes of Williams. Fortunately, the likes of Williams are quite rare, and make up only a small percentage of prisoners.

    • "Too bad more time and money isn't being devoted to prevention. "

      Devoted where?

      Do we expect the Colonel William's of the world to step forward and ask for it? i doubt it. If they don't how do you find them? Certainly there was not even a hint of suspicion about him until he was finally nabbed.

      I don't think "building prisons" is a deterrent either, but it's hard to argue that we don't need infrastructure upgrading in that area and a need to reduce the over crowding that sees convicted criminals released early.

  4. BIZZARE

  5. this is why we need to re-establish the death penalty

    • No, it's not.

    • I was fully convinced that Canada needed to reinstate the death penalty.

      Then came Dr. Charles Smith.

  6. As a sexual predator, this man is very unusual because he was very successful in his career. His sexual deviance was completely unknown to those who worked with him, were his neighbours or lived with him. It is most chilling to know that he fooled everyone. I hope that psychiatrists can interview him to gain insight into his mind and why he did what he did.
    His sentence should contain no possibility of parole.

    • "His sentence should contain no possibility of parole. "

      Somebody feel free to correct me if I'm wrong…but I don't think that's an option in Canada. The most they can sentence you is 25 years before you're eligible for parole.

    • Life should mean Life! not 25 years.

    • You can't have life sentences without the possibility of parole because that would violate the Charter's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

      But it must be understood that "possibility' of parole doesn't mean 'guarantee' or 'entitlement' to parole. Life does mean life in nearly all crimes of this magnitude. Williams will not be paroled.

  7. I Just wonder where was William's wife all these years? Perhaps she is a victim of this guy as well, but I could not believe she did not notice her husband's issues… too naive? or too did not want to face the horrible thrut?

  8. I can't believe the public voyeurism going on surrounding this trial. He plead guilty to all charges at the start of the trial. There is a mandatory sentence for 1st degree murder. There was no need to go to the expense of the three day theatre where virtually all "news" broadcasters rebroadcast every juicy detail. Read between the lines of the grahic warning and it's kind of " Warning: We are going to bradcast some relly juicy deteils so pull up your chair and make sure you don't miss anything" All in all, I'm disgusted with both the media and with the citizenry in general" And no, I didn't read the text of this article.

  9. The meticulous photographing of sadistic sexual activities is eerily reminiscent of another man you mentioned, Paul Bernardo. Did these two ever know each other ?

  10. life does mean life. he only becomes ELIGIBLE for parole after 25 year. that DOESN'T MEAN he WILL BE paroled.

    The Crown had to go through the circus of airing all the disgusting details because in 25 years HE WILL BE UP FOR PAROLE. Time will have passed. The record has be detailed and as complete as possible so in 25 years there will be no doubt this monster is not deserving of parole.