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Highly specialized OPP unit credited for speedy arrest

Police wait for search warrants to enter the home of Col. Russell Williams on Cozy Cove Lane in Tweed, Ont., on Feb. 9, 2010.

FRED THORNHILL/FRED THORNHILL/REUTERS

It happened with almost lightning speed.

Former military base commander Colonel Russell Williams was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and two sexual assaults just three days after he was stopped at a road block.

Then, sources say, Col. Williams took his interrogators to the body of 27-year-old Jessica Lloyd of Belleville, Ont., whose Jan. 29 disappearance prompted a massive ground search and dispatched waves of fear across the area.

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Det. Staff Sgt. Chris Loam heads the five investigative units of the OPP's Orillia-based Behavioural Science Analysis Services that brought the investigation this far.

The lead officer in the Belleville interrogation room was the BSAS's Sergeant Jim Smith, who in May secured the evidence that resulted in two homicide charges in the death of 8-year-old Tori Stafford of Woodstock, Ont.

Teamwork is key ingredient among the unit's cerebral, highly specialized investigators. The team has established a fearsome reputation in recent years with a combination of criminal-profiling, polygraphing, forensic psychiatry, threat assessment, and research.

BSAS was not always so widely respected, recalls former Toronto coroner Jim Cairns, who had many dealings with the unit.

"When they started out years ago, some people were saying 'Oh, this is just ivory tower nonsense - high falutin' university stuff, it's not really practical,'" he said.

"But they see things that don't stand out to other investigators."

Months before Col. Williams's name surfaced, several members of the BSAS unit were investigating the two sexual assaults in Tweed that were the genesis of the case.

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As homicide detectives in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Manitoba re-examine cold cases that may be tied to the 46-year-old career officer, who until last week oversaw the 8 Wing/CFB military base in Trenton, Det. Staff Sgt. Loam anticipates plenty of requests for assistance.

"We've got this piece of it done, but there's still a lot of work to do yet," he said.

"We've cleared these four major things. Now we have to find out if there's any more."

Created in the mid-1990s, BSAS has undergone some recent restructuring. Gone is an geographic-profiling component due to lack of demand. Newly joined is the sexual-exploitation unit. Separately administered in the same building are the sex-offenders' registry and a data bank of multi-jurisdictional violent crimes, run by the RCMP.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to Col. Williams as Col. Russell.

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About the Author

At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More

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