Colonel's arrest sparks review of other unsolved cases
Published Tuesday, February 9, 2010 10:13PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 12:56AM EDT
Ontario police are receiving inquiries about Col. Russell Williams from police forces and private citizens, and are reviewing other unsolved criminal cases, in light of his arrest in the deaths of two women and the alleged sexual assault of two others.
The former commander of CFB Trenton is facing first-degree murder charges in the deaths of two Eastern Ontario women – including an air force flight attendant. Williams is also charged with the alleged sexual assault and forcible confinement of two other women living in the same region.
Police revealed the charges against Williams yesterday, following his arrest in the disappearance and death of Jessica Lloyd, a 27-year-old woman who was found dead on Monday morning. Lloyd's body underwent a post-mortem examination on Tuesday morning.
Williams, 46, has also been charged in connection with the death of Marie-France Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal with CFB Trenton's 437 squadron who was killed last November. Police have not released the cause of Comeau's death.
The sexual assaults that Williams has been charged with both occurred in September in the small town of Tweed, Ont., north of Trenton, where the accused colonel owns a home.
Following the charges, the Department of National Defence said it would soon name an interim Wing Commander for 8 Wing Trenton, in light of the "seriousness of the charges" laid against the base commander. A review will also be conducted by 1 Canadian Air Division in Winnipeg to determine the most appropriate action pending the outcome of his trial.
On Tuesday, Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kristine Rae said police are looking at other places where Williams has been posted during his 23-year military career -- both inside and outside Canada -- but the focus for now is on collecting evidence in the four cases he is charged in.
When police announced the charges against Williams yesterday, OPP Det.-Insp. Chris Nicholas said police were "certainly tracking the movements of where this man has been over the past several years, and we're continuing on with our investigation."
Rae said the OPP had received inquiries from other police services regarding Williams. The police force has also received calls from the families of victims of other crimes looking for information, she said.
"It is something that'll have to be looked at and it's going to take time to check those cases out to see if there are any similarities with what we have here," Rae said.
One case being re-examined is that of Kathleen MacVicar, a 19-year-old who was found murdered at CFB Trenton in 2001. Rae said the OPP will review the investigation into MacVicar's murder "to see if there are any similarities that can help."
The investigation so far
As of Tuesday afternoon, Rae said police were searching Williams' Ottawa home, as well as his lake-front cottage property in Tweed.
Police have provided few details as to how they zeroed in on their suspect, other than to say he was interviewed at a roadside spot check on Feb. 4.
Larry Jones, who is Williams' neighbour and was initially a suspect in the case, said police told him they held the spot check to hunt for a "peculiar looking" tire tread that matched marks found at the site where Lloyd disappeared. Investigators told Jones the tire tracks matched the tread on Williams' vehicle, he said.
Reporter Sue Sgambati, crime specialist for Toronto's CP24 television station, said the spot check had been set up near Lloyd's home outside Tweed. Police had been looking for her since she was last heard from on Jan. 28, the night she sent a text message to a family friend.
When police spoke to Williams at the spot check, that's when the colonel "wound up on their radar," Sgambati told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday morning.
By Sunday evening, police had arrested Williams. They found Lloyd's body the following day at a location near Tweed.
The two surviving victims in the case told police that a man broke into their homes during the night, tied them up in chairs, blindfolded and then sexually assaulted them for more than two hours. The perpetrator later took pictures of them while they were tied to the chairs.
Former Toronto police officer Mark Mendelson said whoever carried out the attacks may have kept the photos "as trophies," suggesting that police may now be searching for them as evidence in the case.
A shocking arrest
The arrest of Trenton's base commander has unnerved the local community, while leaving some military members in disbelief about the serious charges facing their leader.
"We're all shocked," Lt. Annie Morin, a public affairs officer at CFB Trenton, said Monday.
"The wing commander has been a man that's been respected and very much liked, so this news came as a very big shock for pretty much everybody on the base."
"This is a tough day for anyone in uniform," chief of defence staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk told the Kingston Whig-Standard while visiting CFB Kingston on Monday.
Brice McVicar, a reporter for the Belleville Intelligencer, said many area residents reacted with "shock and disbelief" when they heard about the charges the base commander is now facing.
Questions for police
After police announced the arrest of Lloyd's alleged killer on Monday, a long-time friend of the victim said police hadn't done enough to prevent the crime in the first place.
Terra Dafoe, who knew Lloyd since childhood, said women living in the Belleville-area didn't know there was a possible predator on the loose until after Lloyd disappeared.
"We sort of feel like the police have failed us," Dafoe said in an interview with the Canadian Press from her Toronto home.
"Why not be more aggressive with the public in saying they had suspicions there was a predator out there? It's that type of lack of communication that is infuriating because then you feel like Jess might not have had to go through this."
But provincial police say they did warn women to take safety precautions after back-to-back sex assaults were reported in Tweed, Ont. And Belleville police issued a similar warning after Lloyd went missing last month.
With files from The Canadian Press and reports from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney and Jim Junkin