Skip to main content

Colonel Russell Williams, Wing Commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, is pictured in this September 20, 2009 handout photo.HO

Clad in orange prison garb and appearing downcast, the Canadian Air Force colonel accused of committing a horrifying string of murders and sex attacks appeared briefly in court here by video link and had his case put over for another month.

His military buzz cut grown out into a shaggy widow's peak, Colonel Russell Williams was the first inmate from the Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee, Ont., to appear on what was a crowded court docket. The former commander of 8 Wing/CFB Trenton spoke just twice, when asked if he understood the proceedings.

"Yes, thank you," he replied. His case was put over to April 29 to allow his lawyer, Michael Edelson, to digest what was described in court as a "substantial" disclosure package.

Also in the courtroom Thursday was Lieutenant-Colonel Tony O'Keeffe, who has described himself as "the eyes and ears" of the military during the criminal proceedings. Col. O'Keeffe said afterward he had visited Col. Williams in jail, most recently about two weeks ago, and that "he is where he should be … he's not the man I know."

Col. Williams remains in protective custody, Col. O'Keeffe said. "It's a fairly quarantined, restricted environment. … I gave him the papers I was supposed to give him."

The prisoner asked no questions about his family, nor about the mood at the Trenton base, Col. O'Keeffe added. "He hasn't said a word. … I'm guessing he's not getting a lot of rest."

Col. Williams, 47, faces two charges of first-degree murder. They stem from the deaths of Jessica Lloyd, 27, of Belleville, slain in January, and Corporal Marie-France Comeau, 38, of nearby Brighton, killed in her home in November.

Both women were asphyxiated.

In addition, he is charged with breaking and entering, unlawful confinement and sexual assault. Those charges arise from twin incidents in September, in which two women living on the outskirts of Tweed, north of Belleville, were attacked in their homes, tied up and photographed by an intruder.

He is also a suspect in a four-year string of bizarre house burglaries, most in Southern Ontario and the Ottawa area, in which women were robbed of lingerie.

The colonel first came to the attention of authorities early in February amid a widespread search for Ms. Lloyd, who had vanished after dispatching a late-night text message from her home on Jan. 28.

He was driving from the Trenton base to his lakeside cottage in Tweed on Thursday, Feb. 4, when he encountered a police roadblock on Highway 37, which connects Belleville and Tweed. An alert member of the Madoc OPP detachment spotted an alleged resemblance between the tires on Col. Russell's Pathfinder and a tire track discovered in the snow near Ms. Lloyd's home.

No mention of the tires was made to Col. Russell and he went home that night, before heading the next day to Ottawa, where he spent most weekends with his wife. But from the moment of the roadblock, he was under constant surveillance, and that Saturday he received a call from the OPP asking him to come into their office on downtown Elgin Street the next day for an interview.

Following a six-hour interrogation, he was charged with the murders and sex attacks, and early the next day police located Ms. Lloyd's body in a patch of woods outside Tweed.

Since then, Col. Russell has been behind bars at the Quinte lockup and has been co-operative with the police, sources close to the investigation say.

For several days after his arrest, he made no effort to retain a lawyer. And even after Mr. Edelson was hired to assist him, he continued to speak to police - a highly unusual move for an accused murderer who has counsel.

The dynamic, however, appears to have changed. Col. Russell still appears anxious to answer investigators' questions, but the ground has now been gone over so thoroughly that there are few left to ask, and police visits to Quinte are becoming fewer, a source said.

"He wants to keep talking and keep talking, and stay in charge of the conversation," the source said, "but [police]think they have pretty much the whole story."

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct