Air force commander guilty of murders and sex attacks
A senior Canadian Air Force commander once selected to fly Queen Elizabeth II on a tour of the country, yesterday pleaded guilty to murdering two women.
Colonel Russell Williams was in charge of the country's largest air force base until he was charged earlier this year.
He also admitted the sexual assaults of two other women and dozens of breaking and entering charges in which he stole underwear from the bedrooms of girls who were as young as 11.
He faces an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility for parole for at least 25 years.
Williams (47) dressed in a sombre dark suit, kept his head down as the charges were read in court in Belleville, Ontario. The list of charges was so long that it took nearly 40 minutes to enter into the record.
"Guilty, your honour," he said, after the charges were entered.
Prosecutors said Williams targeted girls and women in their teens and 20s and often photographed himself in their underwear.
At the hearing following his guilty plea, prosecutors showed photographs of Williams wearing a 12-year-old girl's cartoon-decorated underwear, with his genitalia protruding from them, while he was lying on her bed.
Other photos showed him wearing underwear belonging to 11-year-old twins. In some of the pictures he was shown masturbating.
People in the courtroom, many of them victims and their families, were in tears and appeared stunned.
Police said he carefully catalogued the photos of himself in the victims' underwear with time and date stamps on computers in his Ottawa home. Some of the photos were panoramic shots of the victims' bedrooms.
He would take the lingerie with him, keeping them in bags and boxes in his home and would sometimes burn them if he ran out of space.
Prosecutors also said Williams videotaped the assaults and murders.
Williams, who was born in England and raised in Canada, had a promising future with the military.
He was once pictured with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on the front page of the newspaper of Canadian Forces at Base Trenton, during their 2005 visit.
He was also photographed in January with Canada's Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Canada's top general during an inspection of a Canadian aircraft on its way to support relief efforts in Haiti.
Williams pleaded guilty to the murder of Jessica Lloyd (27) whose body was found in February, and Marie Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal under his command who was found dead in her home last November.
Both women were asphyxiated.
Williams also pleaded guilty to forcible confinement, breaking and entering and sexual assault, after two other women were attacked during separate home invasions in the Tweed, Ontario area in September 2009.
Williams, a 23-year military veteran, has never been in combat but has been stationed across Canada and internationally.
This included a stint in 2006 as the commanding officer for Camp Mirage, the secretive Canadian Forces base widely reported to be near Dubai.
Investigators have looked into other areas where he has been posted. Williams' wife, Mary-Elizabeth Harriman, is the associate executive director at Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Williams will be sentenced later this week.