News that a senior Canadian military official is facing two charges of first degree murder has badly shaken staff at Department of National Defence headquarters in Ottawa.
"They're in a state of shock - they're stunned," a Defence official told The Globe Monday.
"In the building, if you were to walk around - that's all anybody is talking about. They're all shaking their heads going 'Huh?'"
Colonel Russell Williams, the base commander at CFB Trenton, is viewed as a "straight up, hard working air force guy," the DND official said.
In addition to the murder charges in two Ontario slayings, the base commander also faces two counts of forcible confinement and two counts of break and enter and sexual assault.
Few in Canada's military knew of the investigation into Col. Williams and so the charges landed with a shock.
"There's no hint, there's no indication - it was out of the blue," the official said.
"Some people knew who were directly linked to the investigation but the rest of the world didn't."
As the commander of CFB Trenton, a hub for Forces air transport operations, Col. Williams was intensely involved in the Haiti earthquake response.
The Chief of the Air Staff, Lieutenant-General Andre Deschamps, announced this afternoon that Col. Williams was being at least temporarily relieved of his duties as 8 Wing Commander at CFB Trenton.
"Although one is considered innocent until proven guilty, in light of the seriousness of the charges, and in consideration of the high level of responsibilities attached to the position of Wing Commander, an interim Wing Commander for 8 Wing Trenton will soon be appointed," he said in a statement.
Gen. Deschamps said that the air force would launch a review "to determine the most appropriate action to take regarding Colonel Williams pending the outcome of the trial."
(Photo: Defence Minister Peter MacKay and General Walter Natynczyk, the Chief of the Defence Staff, tour CFB Trenton with Colonel Russell Williams last month. Warrant Officer Carole Morissett/Combat Camera)