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Colonel Williams caught in a cat and mouse game

Russ Williams came into the second-floor interview room at the Ottawa Police station last Feb. 7 cheery, cocky and chomping on a wad of gum.

Five days earlier, he had dumped the body of Jessica Lloyd off a country road; nine days earlier, he had broken into her isolated home, videoed himself raping her, abducted her to his cottage in nearby Tweed, Ont., raped and videoed her some more and then strangled her.

He was smiling as he shucked off his bright yellow jacket and sat down opposite Ontario Provincial Police Detective-Sergeant Jim Smyth, an agreeable, seemingly unremarkable fellow from the OPP's behavioural sciences section.

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Det.-Sgt. Smyth explained that the interview would be videotaped, and at one point, Colonel Williams, then the base commander for CFB Trenton, looked up at that camera as though he'd never seen one before and grinned.

Excerpts of that interview were played in Ontario Superior Court in Belleville at Col. Williams's sentencing hearing on Wednesday.

It began at 3:03 p.m., a Sunday.

The 47-year-old pilot and rising air force star had no idea what was in store for him.

Col. Williams was read his rights, cautioned, and smoothly batted back the beach balls Det.-Sgt. Smyth lobbed in to him.

The colonel used "we," meaning him and his wife Mary Elizabeth Harriman, whenever he could work it into a sentence, underlining the fact that he was a well-married man. He managed to let it drop that although, heavens no, he'd never before been interviewed by the police, he had passed his top secret security check, thereby reminding Det.-Sgt. Smyth he was a wheel.

Asked if anything in his background might point the finger of blame on him, Col. Williams said such an exercise would "be very boring." He joked that the only lawyer he'd ever had was a real estate lawyer. There was no tension evident anywhere in his body.

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When Det.-Sgt. Smyth explained the role of forensics in policing, and asked Col. Williams what he'd be willing "to give me today to help me move past you in this investigation," he replied, "What do you need?"

In short order, he was handing over a DNA sample, being fingerprinted and allowing imprints of the boots on his feet to be taken.

But he was getting nervous now. He asked the officer to be discreet with that information. "This would have a very significant impact on the base if they thought you thought I did this," he said.

The metaphorical noose around his neck was drawing ever tighter.

Det.-Sgt. Smyth broke the news that the tires on Col. Williams's Pathfinder seemed to match the tracks left in snow on Ms. Lloyd's property.

Then he showed him two photos of boot prints, one set found outside Ms. Lloyd's house after her abduction, the other the impressions made, just shortly before, of the very boots the colonel was wearing.

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"These are identical," the detective said, and although his voice was still even and pleasant, it was somehow also more stern. "Your vehicle drove up the side of Jessica Lloyd's house … your boots walked to the back of Jessica Lloyd's house … this is getting out of control really fast, Russell."

Det.-Sgt. Smyth told him police were, even as they spoke, executing search warrants on his Tweed cottage and his Ottawa home ("Your wife now knows what's going on," Det.-Sgt. Smyth said helpfully) and had seized his vehicles.

The jig was up, and as the realization dawned, Col. Williams stuttered, "I don't know what to say." "Well," said the detective, "you need to explain it."

The colonel was looking down; the muscles of his jaw worked furiously. Det.-Sgt. Smyth told him it was over. There were long silences, during which the detective softly called his name, "Russell? Russell?" as though trying to wake him.

"Call me Russ, please," said Col. Williams.

He was sniffing frequently now. His face was cupped in his left hand. He sighed deeply. The detective asked softly, "So, where is she?" They both knew he was asking about Ms. Lloyd's body.

"Got a map?" Russ Williams asked, and thus, four hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds after the interview began, was his confession under way.

He would talk - in his nice, reasonable voice, as though discussing a ball game - for almost another six hours.

He would take the police to Ms. Lloyd's body, 0.7 kilometre from a particular intersection. Det.-Sgt. Smyth asked how he'd come to measure the distance. "That's just the way I am," Col. Williams said. "Numbers, I have to know the numbers."

At one point, Det.-Sgt. Smyth asked if he'd spent much time thinking about why he'd done these things.

"Yeah," the colonel replied, "but I don't know the answers, and I'm pretty sure the answers don't matter."

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