Skip to main content

Colonel Russ Williams

Accused murderer and sex predator Colonel Russell Williams intends to thwart the justice system by starving himself to death in his Napanee jail cell, prosecutors believe.

"There's a lot that he doesn't want to come out at trial or through a guilty plea," a source close to the investigation said. "This would be his way of trying to make sure of that."

If Col. Williams has, indeed, resolved to slowly commit suicide by depriving himself of all food - typically an agonizing process - there is little authorities can do to prevent him.

Force-feeding, most commonly by means of tubes inserted in the nose or mouth, is outlawed under a 1975 resolution of the World Medical Association.

Following a suicide attempt last weekend, the former commander of the Trenton air base has been on a hunger strike, and as of Thursday evening had refused all food.

But whereas most hunger strikes hinge on demands of some type, Col. Williams has made none, the source said.

Under international statute, a hunger-striker can be given medical help, and in extreme cases, taken to hospital.

But force-feeding, such as was inflicted on Britain's suffragettes (leather funnels were shoved down their throats) is banned provided the prisoner is "capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment," in the language of the WMA.

(That did not prevent the George W. Bush administration from using the technique numerous times in its so-called war on terror, most notably at its Guantanamo prison in Cuba.) Hunger strikers typically last about two months before expiring, far less if they refuse water as well. IRA prisoner Bobby Sands, one of 10 militants who starved themselves to death in a Northern Ireland prison in 1981, died after 66 days.

Detained at the Quinte Detention Centre, west of Kingston, Col. Williams, 47, faces two charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jessica Lloyd, 27, and Corporal Marie-France Comeau, 37, both from Eastern Ontario, in separate incidents. He also faces two charges of sexual assault and four related counts of unlawful confinement and breaking and entering. All the attacks encompassed nighttime assaults on women alone in their homes.

In addition to the criminal charges, the career airman is also a suspect in a years-long string of house burglaries in which women's underwear was stolen.

In Canada, there appears to be no precedent for a person charged with murder escaping trial through self-starvation.

Col. Williams was arrested and charged Feb. 7 and since then has been incarcerated in the detention centre's segregation wing.

Since his suicide bid, which saw him jam his cell door and then try to force a paper-packed cardboard toilet roll down his throat, he has been under 24-hour scrutiny.

He scrawled a crude goodbye letter, the source also confirmed, saying his personal affairs were in order and that his troubles were "unbearable."

Jail guards who peered through his cell-door window and spied the colonel choking managed to unjam the door lock and revive him.

Col. Williams's last two court appearances have been by video link, with a third scheduled for April 29.

Currently under way is the discovery process, which allows the defence to examine the prosecution's evidence. In this instance, much of that material comprises lengthy videotaped statements Col. Williams has given to police.

Before the next court appearance, which is expected to set yet another court date, there will be a pre-trial consultation involving the prosecution, the defence and Superior Court Judge Mr. Justice Stephen Hunter.

Col. Williams has retained Ottawa lawyer Michael Edelson, who has repeatedly declined all comment on his client's plight.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct