Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Victims describe emotional scars from Col. Williams's crimes

Col. Russell Williams is shown in this court-released image from his interrrogation by police captured on video and shown Wednesday in a Belleville, Ont. courtroom. Williams told police that while he did ask himself why he raped and killed women he could never come up with an answer and he was “pretty sure the answers don't matter.”

The Canadian Press

Editor's Note: The following story contains graphic details that may disturb some readers.

Jessica Lloyd's relatives and friends stood just steps away from her killer Wednesday and told an emotional courtroom they will never understand why Colonel Russell Williams stole the life of the beautiful young woman.

"I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest," said Roxanne Lloyd, Ms. Lloyd's mother, who read aloud the dates of Jessica's birth and death during her victim-impact statement Wednesday.

Story continues below advertisement

"I wouldn't wish this on anyone but I can't help wondering why? Jessica never did anything to anyone. … I have heard that people should be forgiven for their sins … but I can honestly say I hate Russell Williams. … I am a broken woman," she said, noting that she now takes anti-depressants and sleeping pills.

"There's no punishment that can make this better."

Earlier in the day, the Belleville, Ont., court heard portions of the colonel's videotaped interview with police, which lasted more than 10 hours and took place on Feb. 7, 2010, several days after Ms. Lloyd disappeared. He confessed to his crimes and later led police to the location of the 27-year-old's body.

Col. Williams was formally convicted Tuesday of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault and forcible confinement and 82 fetish burglaries in which he stole women's underwear and other intimate items. By law, he will be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for at least 25 years.

The family of Col. Williams's other murder victim, Corporal Marie-France Comeau, did not deliver victim-impact statements. However, their loss will be addressed by Crown attorney Lee Burgess on Thursday.

Andy Lloyd, Ms. Lloyd's brother, testified that he knew something was wrong from the outset but never guessed at the scale of what was ahead.

Weeping, he said the case has drawn so much media attention that the grieving process has never been completed. He spoke of his happy, fun-loving sister, saying Christmas was an especially joyous occasion. "Looking ahead, I can't even imagine what Christmas will be like."

Story continues below advertisement

He glared at Col. Williams. "The only good thing about all of this is that these crimes were stopped. … I have so many questions that will haunt me for the rest of my life and only Russell Williams has the answers. … I don't understand how fate or God or any higher power could allow these things to happen."

After he finished speaking, there was applause in the courtroom.

Deborah, Ms. Lloyd's aunt, said her six-year-old grandson wants to be a police officer so he can catch bad guys like the one who killed Ms. Lloyd. (Mr. Justice Robert Scott asked the media to use only the first names of most of the witnesses giving victim-impact statements.)

"I don't know how to close my eyes at night without seeing her scared little face and his piercing eyes. … Many people have said it took our angel to bring Russell Williams down."

As Deborah spoke, Col. Williams listened carefully, sitting straight in his seat, a striking change from his demeanour earlier Wednesday. Ontario Provincial Police Detective Inspector Chris Nicholas, who headed the investigation, wiped his eyes.

Another of Ms. Lloyd's aunts said every time she sees Col. Williams's image "it's like being kicked in the stomach". She asked why Col. Williams attacked the much-loved young woman and refused to release her.

Story continues below advertisement

"Jessica was home where she thought she was safe. … She was powerless to defend herself against such an experienced predator. … He ended her life and he dumped Jessica on the side of the road like a bag of trash. … He has ruined so many lives," Sharon said.

Sarah, Ms. Lloyd's first cousin, told the court that she is now scared to be alone in her home. "I can't trust anyone. … I worry all the time. … I have lost my best friend. … I have lost myself."

Hayley, a student whose Ottawa-area house was robbed by Col. Williams, testified that the break-in left her frightened, even after she moved away. She said she had panic attacks and trouble sleeping, saying her life has changed. "I realized how violated I felt," she said, acknowledging that others have been affected worse than her.

In the video of his voluntary interview shown in court earlier Wednesday, Col. Williams batted away questions about his secret life of stalking and murdering women for the first few hours.

But his will finally waned after he was told that police were on the verge of executing a search warrant on his house and discovering photographic evidence of his crimes.

His confession then poured out as he matter-of-factly answered questions in gruesome detail.

Initially, the former base commander and rising military star appeared relaxed and confident, declining Detective Sergeant Jim Smyth's offer of a lawyer.

Asked what he was doing the day after Ms. Lloyd went missing, Col. Williams paused: "I was at home with a stomach flu." In fact, he spent the day assaulting, raping and then murdering her.

The police officer asked how Col. Williams knew Cpl. Comeau, his first murder victim. The pilot said he had met her once on a military flight. The 37-year-old worked as a flight attendant.

Col. Williams agreed to provide an impression of his boot tread, the same boots he wore the night he abducted Ms. Lloyd, as well as a blood sample. "Can I assume you will be discreet?" he asks the officer about his DNA sample. "It's tough to undo the rumour mill once it gets started."

The colonel's nonchalant manner began to slip and his answers got shorter when he was asked whether he knew Ms. Lloyd or had ever been in the home of a neighbour he sexually assaulted.

Told that police found a tire track in the field next to Ms. Lloyd's house that was the same brand as the tires on his Pathfinder SUV, Col. Williams expressed disbelief, saying: "Really?" Det. Sgt. Smyth also showed the colonel that his boot print is identical to one found in the field.

"You and I both know you were at Jessica Lloyd's house and I need to know why," the police officer says. After a long pause, Col. Williams replied: "I don't know what to say."

Col. Williams, who was told that his house was being searched and that his wife was aware, became silent. Det. Sgt. Smyth asked Col. Williams to do the right thing and admit his guilt, if only to give some closure to Ms. Lloyd's parents. He sat quietly, staring at his interrogator.

A bit later, Col. Williams expressed concerns about his wife and the impact this will have on the Canadian Forces. He also thought of his home, saying: "I'm worried they're tearing up my wife's new house."

"I want to minimize the impact on my wife... so how do we do that?" he said. Det. Sgt. Smyth responded: "Well, we can start by telling the truth."

Col. Williams offered to show the location of Ms. Lloyd's body on a map. Sniffling and choked up, he pointed to the approximate location and told Det. Sgt. Smyth that she was alive for almost 24 hours. Sitting in the prisoner's box, Col. Williams cried as the video was played in court.

Col. Williams described how he broke into Ms. Lloyd's home, hit her, covered her eyes with tape, bound her with rope, sexually assaulted her and then took her to his cottage in Tweed. He later says it "wasn't always the plan" to take her there.

After making Ms. Lloyd shower, he said they both slept, Ms. Lloyd still bound. Upon waking, she experienced convulsions, which she told him she had had before, likely from stress. "She had a seizure. She felt it coming on. She had some before. It lasted quite a while."

Col. Williams led Ms. Lloyd to believe that he would release her. "Before I let her go, I told her I want to take some pictures of her in her underwear and have sex with her."

As they were walking, he said: "She thought we were leaving. I hit her in the back of the head" with a flashlight and then strangled her, he said. "You'll find signs of it," he said, explaining that there is blood in his cottage.

Col. Williams told his interrogator that he bound Ms. Lloyd's body and stored it in his garage. Three days later, after flying troops to California, he dumped it in a rural area.

He said he killed Ms. Lloyd because she knew he was taking pictures and the police would connect the photos to his two previous sexual assaults in Tweed. Asked what he thought while he was attacking Ms. Lloyd, he said she was "a very nice girl."

Col. Williams also described how he broke into Cpl. Comeau's house and hid in the basement, where she found him while looking for one of her cats. He said she didn't recognize him because his face was disguised, but yelled "You bastard!" when she saw him.

Cpl. Comeau tried to fight him off but Col. Williams tied her up, gagged her and viciously beat and sexually assaulted her. She passed out at one point from his blows and he had to carry her upstairs.

He says he strangled her, and then corrects himself, "Well, I suffocated her." Asked why, he replied: "Again, because of the pictures. There was going to be a straight line back to Tweed."

As he recounted what he did to Cpl. Comeau, answering every question, Col. Williams's tone was subdued and yet strikingly casual. He also admitted to the two sexual assaults.

He said he chose the corporal because she had mentioned that she lived alone. He checked her schedule and timed his first visit to her home, in which he stole some lingerie, for when she was out of town.

At one point, Col. Williams was asked why he thinks these things happened. His response: "I don't know." And then: "I'm pretty sure the answers don't matter."

He later said he feels "disappointed" at his actions. He was asked whether he would have continued such crimes and said, "I was hoping not" before adding that he can't answer the question.

Also Wednesday, the court released often chilling letters Col. Williams wrote to his wife and victims during a break in the interrogation.

To his wife, Mary Elizabeth Harriman, he wrote: "Dearest Mary Elizabeth, I love you, Sweet [illegible] I am so very sorry for having hurt you like this. I know you'll take good care of sweet Rosie [their cat] I love you, Russ".

He wrote the following to Ms. Lloyd's mother: "Mrs. Lloyd, You won't believe me, I know, but I am sorry for having taken your daughter from you. Jessica was a beautiful, gentle young woman, as you know. I know she loved you very much - she told me so again and again. I can tell you that she did not suspect that the end was coming - Jessica was happy because she believed she was going home. I know you have already had a lot of pain in your life. I am sorry to have caused you more."

To Ernest Comeau, the father of Cpl. Comeau, he wrote: "I am sorry for having taken your daughter, Marie-France, from you. … I know you won't be able to believe me, but it is true. Marie-France has been deeply missed by all that knew her." (Shortly after her death, Col. Williams wrote Mr. Comeau an official condolence letter, making no mention of his role in her murder.)

To his first sex assault victim, who can't be named, he wrote: "I apologise for having traumatized you the way I did. No doubt you're left a bit safer now that I've been caught."

And to Laurie Massicotte, the second woman he sexually assaulted, he also apologized. "Laurie, I am sorry for having hurt you the way I did. I really hope that the [illegible]we had has helped you turn your life around a bit. You seem like a bright woman, who could do much better for herself. I do hope you find a way to succeed." (Ms. Massicotte waived the right to have her identity shielded by the court.)

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this online story contained an incorrect word in the transcription of Col. Williams's letter to victim Jessica Lloyd's mother. This version has been updated.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Authors

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

National reporter

Greg has been a reporter with The Globe since 2005. He has probed a wide variety of topics, including police malfeasance, corruption and international corporate bribery. He was written extensively about the Airbus affair, offshore tax evasion and, most recently, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his criminal ties. More

National news reporter


Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.