Tuesday 19 October 2010

A very weird criminal

Many criminals do weird things but surely one of the weirdest criminals is the Canadian colonel who (at the time of this writing) is on trial for 88 criminal charges, two of them for the murder of two women. He was formally the commander of one of Canada’s largest military bases and is now in a prison cell after having pleaded guilty of murdering two Ontario women—including a fellow service member—and sexually assaulting two others and after having pleaded guilty to 82 other charges involving breaking into 48 women’s homes. He will automatically be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison for the two murders he committed. He will not serve additional times for the other crimes because the 25-year-minimum is considered a life sentence although technically he could be released after serving twenty-five years in prison. Fortunately, he fathered no children who would have had to live with the shame their father would have saddled them with.

He was born on March 7th 1963 and is a self-described avid golfer, keen photographer, fisherman and runner, Williams enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1987 after earning an economics and political science degree from the University of Toronto. He received his flying wings in 1990 and two years later was posted to 434 (Combat Support) Squadron in Shearwater, where he flew the CC144 Challenger in the electronic warfare/coastal patrol role. He was subsequently posted to 412 (Transport) Squadron in Ottawa, where he continued to fly the Challenger, this time hauling VIPs. Promoted to major in 1999 and lieutenant-colonel in 2004, he also served as commanding officer at Camp Mirage, the ultra-secretive forward logistics base that the government has never officially acknowledged, but is widely reported to be in Dubai. In January 2009, he was posted to the Canadian Forces Language School in Gatineau, Quebec for a six-month period of French training, his last step before being transferred to Trenton.

Col. Russell Williams, a career air force officer, was the top man at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, a sprawling facility between Ottawa and Toronto that houses transport planes, search and rescue aircraft, and Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART)----the same Ontario base that has welcomed home the flag-draped caskets of every Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan. At age 46, he was commander of 8 Wing Trenton, and was in charge of the country’s busiest airbase and destined to have a stellar career in the armed forces and retire as a general.

Unfortunately for his legacy, the police slapped him with another label: serial predator. The charge sheet that spoke for itself, accused the once-impeccable colonel of leading a secret double life of rape and murder. The police say he broke into two homes and attacked the two women living in them (both victims lived near Tweed, the same Ontario hamlet where Williams resided). His first murdered victim was Marie-France Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal who was also stationed at CFB Trenton. She was killed inside her home in late-November, her lifeless body discovered by her boyfriend. And on February 8th, 2010, detectives discovered the remains of a second slain woman: 27-year-old Jessica Lloyd of Belleville, Ontario who was missing since January 28th. Arrested in Ottawa Williams was charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, forcible confinement, break and enter, and sexual assault.

Williams first came to the attention of the police on Feburary 4th, when officers were questioning motorists on the same rural highway where Jessica Lloyd lived. There was a singularity in all the incidents, the singularity relating to the unusual tire tracks that were typical of William’s vehicle.

Four days before Russell Williams took command of the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ontario, 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 then 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.”

As it is easy to see from that statement alone, the disgraced colonel broke intro homes because of the excitement it gave him. Many criminals like the thrill that comes with committing crimes and this man who is obviously a sick individual, was no exception.

Later that week, Colonel 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 11th, 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.

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.

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.

Williams told police that he preferred women in their late teens to early 30s. However, the prosecutor pointed out that females under the age of 18 were either the sole or joint targets of 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. His third and fourth break-ins targeted 11-year-old twin girls; Williams photographed himself wearing their underwear. It must have been a very tight fit.

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 September 1st 2007, 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 so he got dressed and left the scene.

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 which in effect, he was wearing his trophy with him to work.

Williams’ first sexual assault. occurred in the early morning of September 17th 2007—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.”)

Many criminals, especially those that commit murder or rape their victims, take items belonging to their victims home with them. The items are generally panties and braziers but also include jewelery, cheap or otherwise as trophies. The use of the word ‘trophies’ is not to be construed in the same way that hunters collect the heads of the animals they kill as trophies or the kind that several American soldiers who murdered Afghan civilians for sport, kept finger bones, leg bones, a tooth and a skull as grisly trophies.

Serial killer, Robert Hansen was a trophy collector, another common attribute of serial killers. His basement in his home in Alaska was the storage space for the trophies from his human victims. It was largely this trophy collection that resulted in his successful conviction. Among the significant items discovered that he kept was a fish necklace that had been custom-made for one of his victims. By keeping such trophies, it gives the criminal the opportunity to relive their crimes. It was the vast collection of trophies that Colonel Williams collected and cataloged that was the proof needed to establish that he had broken into many homes.

His wife, Marry Elizabeth Harriman was unaware of this man’s crimes and had not seen any of his trophies because many of them were secreted away out of her sight and others were photographed and then placed into the drive of his computer. What is really strange about this man’s behaviour is that he actually video-taped himself when he was naked in his victim’s homes. While looking at those videos, he certainly would be reliving his crimes.

He admitted to taking photographs inside the homes he broke into, specifically in the bedrooms, in the lingerie drawers and, often of himself wearing lingerie from that residence … He also often masturbated inside the homes. The majority of his break and enters were done overnight, often past midnight. He also admitted to breaking into more than one house per night on six different occasions. In the majority of the occurrences, none of the occupants were home. When he would return to his house, either in Tweed or Ottawa, after an occurrence, he would place any lingerie he had stolen in boxes or bags. Furthermore, after each occurrence, he would take pictures of the stolen lingerie and other items at his home. While doing so, he often modeled the lingerie and/or masturbated while wearing it, and took photographs of himself while doing so. He then downloaded all of his photographs (taken both during and after each occurrence) into a complex file folder system he created on his computer at his Ottawa home. When he accumulated too many items, he would dispose of them, including on two occasions (June 21st, 2008 and March 29th, 2009) where he brought items to different fields just outside of Ottawa and burned them.

These photographs were time and date stamped, and thus giving investigators an idea of just how long Williams was in a particular home and what he was doing while he was in there. For these reasons, a detailed description of the various folders was included. He also kept a log of all of his offences, which included the date, the location and the nature of the offence. That certainly is keeping trophies in the extreme so that he could relive the experiences in greater detail. He also stored the evidence of his break and enters, sexual assaults and murders of two women on two hard drives.

Corporal Marie-France Comeau, 38, who ultimately reported to Colonel Williams, was bound and beaten by Williams in the basement of her home in Brighton, Ontario. She was asphyxiated. Her naked body was found in a bed, partially covered, on November 26th, 2009.

Jessica Lloyd, 27, of Belleville, was kept alive by Williams for at least a day while she was sexually assaulted, videotaped and later asphyxiated. Williams later took her body to a field and dumped it there.

I am not going to try and explain why this killer acted the way he did since his crimes are so unusual with respect to him keeping the trophies of his crime. I can only presume that he really believed that no one would ever suspect him as being the perp the police were looking for.

The armed forces are stripping him of his rank and medals and discharging him dishonourably but what really upsets Canadians is that the government may not be able to stop him from collecting his $60,000 annual armed forces pension. The only way that can come about is if the silly, weak-minded members of Parliament get off their royal butts and bring about a law that makes killers like this man ineligible to collect his pension once he is dishonourably discharged from the armed forces.

When I learn what they will do (if anything) I will add it as an UPDATE to this article.

UPDATE: Williams was sentenced to two life sentences for the two murders he committed. This means that he must wait until he has served 25 years in prison before he can apply for parole. The judge ordered that the video he took of the murders he committed not be destroyed so that the National Parole Board will have access to them when Williams applies for parole. It is highly unlikely that he will ever be released from prison. He was also sentenced to ten years for each of the two rapes he committed and one year for each of the more than 80 break-ins he committed. All the sentences are concurrent. As to his pension, Parliament will have to rule on it but if Parliament rules that he isn't entitled to it, he will at least be entitled to the contributions that he paid into it.

1 comment:

BCReason said...

It's possible he and Paul Bernardo may have at least met.

Supposedly they were both at U of T Scarborough around 1986.