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Divorce of sex killer Russell Williams now open to public scrutiny

Col. Russell Williams leaves court in Belleville, Ont., on October 21, 2010.

Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Key elements of a sweeping publication ban have been lifted on divorce proceedings between convicted sex killer Russell Williams and his estranged wife.

The former colonel's wife, Mary Elizabeth Harriman, has not made a request to the Supreme Court of Canada to reverse an Ontario Court of Appeal decision to set aside a publication ban in the case.

The Appeal Court overturned major parts of the ban in a decision released Jan. 24, but allowed them to remain in effect for 14 days to give Ms. Harriman time to challenge the decision.

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That grace period has expired and the Supreme Court has not received an application requesting an appeal of the Ontario court ruling.

That means certain information – such as Ms. Harriman's name, address, employer, income and some medical information – can now be made public.

However, the ban still applies to her social insurance number, date of birth, bank account number and the domestic contract the couple signed about six weeks after Mr. Williams was charged with first-degree murder.

Mr. Williams, once a rising star in the military and commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, was sentenced to life in prison in October, 2010, after pleading guilty to the murders of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd.

He was also convicted of two sexual assaults and dozens of fetish break-ins. The Canadian Forces stripped him of his rank after his conviction and, in a rare move, burned his uniform.

Ms. Harriman's lawyer had argued that opening up the proceedings to the public would cause her client more harm than she has already experienced.

Ontario's top court seemed to sympathize with Ms. Harriman's plight in its Jan. 24 ruling, saying she appeared to be "yet another victim of Williams' depravity."

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But it ruled that the lower court judge erred in granting the sweeping ban, saying the evidence did not support her conclusion that the ban was necessary to prevent a serious risk to the proper administration of justice.

Lawyer Richard Dearden, who represented a coalition of media groups who challenged the ban, has called the ruling an important decision for freedom of the press, saying there is a real public interest in knowing how the court is going to divide assets, such as Mr. Williams's military pension.

Two of Mr. Williams's victims – Laurie Massicotte and a woman whose name cannot be disclosed under a publication ban – have filed lawsuits against Mr. Williams and Ms. Harriman.

Both have alleged in their statement of claim that Mr. Williams secretly and fraudulently transferred assets to his wife in March, 2010, after he was criminally charged.

The claims, which have not been proved in court, were vigorously denied by Ms. Harriman in her statements of defence.

A neighbour of Mr. Williams is also suing him, the police and one of the victims.

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