Thousands of explicit photos that Col. Russell Williams took while wearing women’s and girls’ lingerie show how his sexual obsession escalated from lesser crimes to sexual assault and murder, a Belleville, Ont., court heard Monday.
The decorated former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in eastern Ontario, pleaded guilty to all 88 charges against him — including two counts of first-degree murder, two counts each of sexual assault and forcible confinement and 82 break-ins and attempted break-ins.
Williams, 47, was arraigned on the murder charges Monday before Judge Robert F. Scott in Ontario Superior Court. Wearing a dark suit and grey button-down shirt, Williams quietly pleaded: “Guilty, your honour.”
For the deaths of Jessica Lloyd, 27, and Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 38, Williams faces an automatic sentence of life in prison, with no possibility of parole for at least 25 years.
Crown attorney Lee Burgess told court that Williams had pleaded guilty to some “very serious crimes.”
“In relation to each of the murders of Comeau and Lloyd, his crimes have been deliberate, both in [the] course of committing a sexual assault, and while he confined his victims,” Burgess said.
“Given the seriousness of charges, it’s important for the court to have a full account of the facts. These facts will be extremely disturbing. The evidence will cause further emotional pain for loved ones of victims.”
Lloyd’s mother, Roxanne, sat in the courtroom holding a large framed photo of her daughter.
Also looking on were Belleville’s police chief, OPP lead investigator Chris Nicholas as well as roughly 40 victims and family members, including Williams’s second sexual assault victim, Laurie Massicotte.
In one of the sexual assaults, Burgess said the victim awoke to someone holding her head. Williams struck the victim several times and tried to bind her hands with a blanket. He told her he would not hurt her. He covered her head and then undressed her while taking photographs. At one point he left the room. She later noted underwear missing.
After his arrest, Williams admitted to being the perpetrator. He broke into the house twice more after the sexual assault. He had two hard drives at his Ottawa residence with catalogued evidence detailing the attack in a document and with photos, including pictures of the victim’s driver’s licence and insurance benefits card.
An agreed statement of facts was read out in court tracing the chronology and escalation of Williams’s offences.
According to that statement, Williams lived with his wife in Ottawa. In 2004, he purchased a cottage in Tweed, Ont.
Following his appointment as Trenton base commander in charge of 3,000 people, he lived in Tweed during the week and went to his Ottawa home on weekends.
The investigation into the crimes began after Lloyd’s disappearance. Williams, who was a rising star in the military, was interviewed in relation to the crimes on Feb. 7, 2010. He had come to the attention of police at a Feb. 4 roadside checkpoint, just days after Lloyd was killed, when his SUV’s unusual tires were linked to tread marks at one of the crime scenes.
The interview revealed his involvement in the deaths of Comeau and Lloyd. Subsequent interviews implicated him in 82 break-ins. Only 17 homeowners reported their homes had been broken into, while 61 incidents went undetected or unreported until Williams’s arrest. Most break-ins occurred at night, many after midnight.
Williams would place lingerie in boxes or bags when he got home. He was so obsessive in his collection of undergarments that he had to burn some of his trophies in a field to make room for more.
Williams broke into at least a dozen bedrooms of girls under the age of 18, including one shared by 11-year-old twins, court heard. One 12-year-old girl found a message from Williams typed on her computer screen: “merci.”
He admitted to police he sought out homes where “attractive young women” lived, targeting those in their late teens to early 30’s.
The Crown said Williams’s behaviour was obsessive in the number of break-ins, in the meticulous manner in which he dealt with stolen clothes and in the sheer volume of photos he took and methodically filed.
Williams took thousands of explicit photographs of himself at crime scenes — wearing women’s and girls’ lingerie, and masturbating on their beds — which he put in a complex file folder system with a date stamp.
The folder system gave a sense of how long Williams was in homes and what he did. He kept a log that stated the nature of the offences and stored evidence of the murders and break-ins on two hard drives. Police found them stored above the ceiling in the basement of his Ottawa home.
The Crown painstakingly took the court through each breaking and entering charge, detailing how Williams broke into each home, what photographs he took and what items he stole.
In discussing a home Williams broke into twice, the Crown said he took the usual photos, plus pictures of family photographs on the dresser. The Crown said the images show a recurring pattern: pictures of a bed, a closet, as well as individual items.
On one occasion, Williams spent nearly two hours in a home, the court heard.
The Crown suggested that count 62 represents the escalation in Williams’s behaviour. Williams admitted that at around 1:30 a.m. on July 11, 2009, he stood in a back yard for 30 minutes and watched the home’s occupant go into the shower. He then stripped down and broke into her home while naked, leaving his clothes outside.
The Crown called this act an indication his behaviour was escalating. Williams later told police it was at this point he wanted to take more risks.
As presentation of the evidence dragged on, the Crown appeared to become more and more exasperated at the sheer magnitude of the crimes.