The email lit up Russell Williams’s BlackBerry at 11:18 a.m. It was not an urgent note, but a subordinate at CFB Trenton wanted to make sure the colonel was aware of an “incident” that occurred earlier that morning: a parachutist had broken his leg during a training course. “Injuries of this type are unfortunately a relatively common occurrence,” wrote Maj. Steve Camps. “Media interest is unlikely.”
Williams was not in the office that Friday. He was at his cottage in Tweed, Ont., raping and torturing Jessica Lloyd. A few minutes before 1 o’clock—as his prisoner slept on the floor, her eyes blinded by duct tape—Williams picked up his BlackBerry and typed a reply. “Understood,” he wrote. “Thanks, Steve.”
Seven hours later, Lloyd was dead.
The depth of Williams’s sadistic double life was laid bare in gruesome detail during his recent sentencing hearing. He was, without exaggeration, a monster hiding in uniform—a relentless sexual predator who also happened to be in charge of the country’s most important air force base. But on the first anniversary of his shocking arrest, the full scope of his dual personality continues to emerge. Internal documents from the Department of National Defence, obtained by Maclean’s under the Access to Information Act, provide chilling new glimpses of a killer in commander’s clothing—including the fact that he checked his inbox while holding Lloyd captive. The documents, which include dozens of Williams’s own emails, reveal just how seamlessly he could transform from standout officer to serial murderer.
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- “I have committed despicable crimes”—Russell Williams speaks to his victims
- Col. Russell Williams’ double life?—Top officer facing murder charges commanded Canada’s largest air base, flew top diplomats
Even on Feb. 5, 2010—a week after he kidnapped Lloyd, and his final shift at the base—Williams was focused on his duties. “Hey sir,” another subordinate wrote from earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where Trenton troops were part of the relief effort. “All is well here in Jacmel. The men and women of 8 Wing, along with all the others we have, are working extremely hard to get the job done.”
“Outstanding,” the colonel (now ex-colonel) wrote back. “Take care.”
The timeline is haunting. On the morning of Nov. 23, 2009, Williams emailed Lt.-Col. John Komocki, the commander of Trenton’s 437 (Transport) Squadron, suggesting he would be a good candidate for an upcoming course at the NATO Defence College in Rome. “Might you be interested?” Williams wrote. Later that same night, he drove to the home of Marie-France Comeau—a corporal assigned to Komocki’s squadron—and, with his video camera rolling, committed his first murder.
Williams fled the crime scene in the early morning hours of Nov. 24, a Tuesday, and drove directly to Gatineau, Que., for what prosecutors described as a “C-17 acquisition” meeting. But Williams didn’t merely attend the meeting; he co-chaired it—on zero sleep. According to the minutes, the gathering began promptly at 8:45 a.m. and focused on “operational issues” surrounding the military’s four new Globemaster cargo planes. In his opening remarks, Williams agreed that the project had “blazed the trail” for other air force initiatives, but cautioned that “there is still a fair distance to cover in order to reach full operational capability.”
In between PowerPoint presentations, Williams received another message from Komocki; the paperwork for the NATO course was filled out, but needed “endorsement” from higher up the chain of command. So at 2:02 p.m., he typed a BlackBerry message to Brig.-Gen. Richard Foster in Winnipeg. “This short course will be of value,” he wrote. “I request your approval. Thank you.”
Williams then delivered his closing remarks at the meeting. “[He] stated that the discussion was relevant and useful,” the minutes state. “He offered congratulations to those involved in the project and remarked that Canada’s acquisition and implementation of the [C-17] will certainly go down in history as an outstanding accomplishment.”
Brig.-Gen. Foster chimed in a short while later, approving Komocki’s trip to Rome. “Fully endorsed,” he wrote. Williams quickly passed along the news: “John, We’re a ‘go.’ ” Comeau’s corpse was still lying in her bed, waiting to be discovered.
When news of her death did begin to spread, Williams said all the right things. He thanked his staff for “stepping in so aggressively to assist” the squadron, and when Komocki’s deputy sent a mass email outlining Comeau’s funeral plans, he was full of praise. “Excellent message,” he wrote. “Well done.”
But Williams was also forwarding emails to a private account—and helping his public affairs officer tweak the base press release. (He wanted to highlight the fact that Comeau was found dead “at her residence in Brighton,” and not simply “found dead.”)
At the time, police had no reason to suspect Williams; it wasn’t until two months later, when he left tire tracks near Lloyd’s house, that his world began to unravel. But even during that last day at the office, as investigators zeroed in, he hardly seemed distracted. He checked on a member who had fallen off a ladder. He was briefed on how the “current surge” in operations was affecting maintenance crews. And he asked a subordinate to “find a few minutes to discuss” how 8 Wing’s website could include more about the Haiti mission.
The following Monday, websites around the country were full of something else: Williams’s photograph. “Media coverage is wall-to-wall coast-to-coast,” a military public affairs officer wrote to Gen. Walter Natynczyk, the chief of defence staff. “Some of the calls coming in question confidence in leadership selection.”