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In this courtroom sketch, Col. Russell Williams appears via a video link in Belleville, Ont., Thursday, Feb.18, 2010. (Alex tavshunsky/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Tavshunsky)
In this courtroom sketch, Col. Russell Williams appears via a video link in Belleville, Ont., Thursday, Feb.18, 2010. (Alex tavshunsky/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Tavshunsky)

Russell Williams moved easily between roles of murderer and colonel Add to ...

One day after he strangled his second murder victim in January, Jessica Lloyd, former air base commander Colonel Russell Williams flew with some of his troops to a training exercise in California. Only three days later did he return to his lakeside cottage in Tweed, north of here, retrieve her body and dump it in a patch of nearby woods.

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Hours after he killed his first target the previous November, Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, an air attendant under his command at the big 8 Wing/CFB Trenton base, he drove to Ottawa for a meeting about the purchase of a C-17 transport plane.

The terrifying ease with which the murderous colonel could resume his pose as a normal human being on the heels of committing two savage sex killings only underscored hours of searing court evidence so graphic and disgusting that it left many in the packed courtroom weeping.

As the day ended, Col. Williams was formally convicted by Mr. Justice Robert Scott on all the crimes of which he stood accused: Two counts of first-degree murder, two of sexual assault and forcible confinement, and 82 fetish burglaries in which his sole quarry was women's underwear and other intimate items.

As throughout his many court appearances in the past eight months, the decorated career soldier displayed not a flicker of emotion.

Crown attorney Lee Burgess told the court Tuesday that Colonel Russell Williams did not seem to understand why he had inflicted such a catalogue of horror and suffering.

Under post-arrest questioning by OPP Detective-Sergeant Jim Smyth, the colonel was asked why he had launched his career of crime so late, at age 44.

"Mr. Williams admitted that it was odd and insisted and that he was not sure what triggered his behaviour but insisted that it was a very recent development," Mr. Burgess told the court. "He explained that it began with an interest in stealing undergarments that may have developed when he was in his 20s and 30s."

Further light may be shed Wednesday, when a portion of that interrogation will be played in court. Victim-impact statements will also be heard and then Col. Williams will be handed an automatic sentence of life imprisonment with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

But for now, authorities do not believe there are any unsolved "cold cases" that can be placed at his door, Mr. Burgess said.

Methodically and calmly, Mr. Burgess laid out the details of the colonel's worst crimes on Tuesday.

He began with the September, 2009, home invasion and sex assault on Tweed resident Laurie Massicotte: blindfolded, tied up and photographed in the nude for hours. Twice before he had raided her house for his lingerie "trophies."

He tied her up, used a blade to cut off her shirt, and told her he wouldn't rape her providing she co-operated. The colonel later told police he had hoped to knock out Ms. Massicotte by bashing her in the head with a flashlight, but to his surprise, she struggled.

After the attack, the colonel photographed himself and his disguise: a black skullcap and a pair of Ms. Massicotte's underwear draped over his face like a mask.

Next came an underwear break-in in Belleville in November, when he stole more than 40 pieces of clothing, a pornographic movie and a sex toy, and left a message on the homeowner's computer. It read: "Go ahead and call the police. I want to show the judge your really big dildos."

That same month saw the murder of Cpl. Comeau, 37. Col. Williams had learned she lived alone in Brighton when she accompanied him on a military flight. As her commander, he had access to her personal information and her home address. She, too, had unknowingly been robbed earlier of lingerie and other items.

On the night he killed her, he lurked outside her house, then broke into the basement wearing a mask and waited for her to fall asleep. But she didn't. Instead, she came into the basement looking for her cat. Col. Williams was hiding behind the furnace.

A fight ensued, followed by hours of beatings and grotesque sexual violence. She was tied to a pole, Col. Williams photographing and videotaping her all the while. She pleaded for mercy, but there was none. Gagged with duct tape, suffering grievous wounds, Cpl. Comeau died of asphyxiation.

But the colonel made a mistake. He left behind bloodied boot prints and DNA traces that would ultimately be linked to him.

Later, he wrote to the Comeau family, expressing his condolences.

The brutal murder in late January of Ms. Lloyd, 27, displayed similar viciousness. Col. Williams told police he first noticed her the day before she disappeared from her home on Highway 37, which connects Tweed to the Trenton base. He savagely abused her at her home, then drove her, blindfolded and restrained, to his Tweed cottage where she endured many more hours of suffering. Among other things, he reverted back to his underwear obsession, and forced her to try on lingerie.

The following evening she was strangled with a piece of rope.

For more than a week, Ms. Lloyd was listed as missing, generating a huge search in the Belleville area. What cracked the case was a distinctive tire track the colonel had left outside her house when he kidnapped her.

Then came the endgame - the colonel's confession. Det. Sgt. Smyth asked him why he had confessed.

The reply was straightforward, Mr. Burgess said.

He said he wanted to "minimize the impact" on his wife, Mary-Elizabeth Harriman.

He was also eager to minimize his legal bills.

Follow on Twitter: @McarthurGreg

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