Serial killer Clifford Olson, who infamously tormented his victims' families from prison, has died of cancer at the age of 71.

Corrections Canada issued a statement on Friday saying that he had died of "apparent natural causes."

Olson had been relocated to a hospital in Quebec, and officials had informed his victims' families earlier this month that the convicted child killer wasn't expected to live much longer.

The families of his victims spoke expressed a range of emotions on hearing the news of Olson's death.

Sharon Rosenfeldt was silent when police told her that her son's murdered had died, and the image of her son flashed through her head, she said.

"I got very emotional because it's almost like having to bury him again," she told CTV News. "He's been so much a part of our lives, through Clifford Olson, that I haven't been able to put him to rest."

Raymond King, whose 15-year-old son was also among Olson's victims, said he was relieved.

"I don't have to think about it anymore, about him, anyway," King told The Canadian Press. "He's never going to pop up in our lives again. He's never going to open those wounds again. It's done. It's over. Now it's time for me."

And Trudy Court, whose sister was killed by Olson, cried "tears of happiness, because justice is done for the children," she said.

"Our justice system couldn't do it for them. But life has. He's gone now."

Olson, the self-described "Beast of B.C.," had been serving a life sentence at a maximum-security prison after pleading guilty in 1982 to torturing, sexually assaulting and murdering 11 children and youth in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

His guilty plea followed a deal in which Olson was paid $100,000 to bring police to the remains of his victims. The six-figure payoff sparked widespread controversy.

Much of the evidence surrounding Olson's crimes was never disclosed to the public because the trial was aborted after his guilty plea.

His victims, boys and girls between the ages of nine and 18, were killed during a murder spree that lasted from Nov. 17, 1980 to July 30, 1981.

None were considered troubled youth who could have run away from home. Many simply vanished from the Vancouver area, leaving many parents afraid for the safety of their children.

Police had considered Olson a suspect in the weeks before his arrest, which took place on Vancouver Island after a surveillance team witnessed him picking up two young hitchhikers.

Despite spending the next three decades behind bars, Olson still managed to attract media attention, staging publicity stunts that included a purported attempt to donate to the federal Conservative Party.

His case inadvertently shaped Canadian law. Among other things, it helped spur new restrictions on early parole for those convicted of murder. It helped spur the federal government to eventually abolish the "faint hope clause" and to halt pensions for some prisoners.

It also precipitated a victims' rights movement in Canada. After Gary Rosenfeldt launched a support group in the early 1980s called Victims of Violence, Olson sent him a letter from prison outlining what he had done to his stepson, who was Olson's third victim.

At Olson's second parole hearing, in 2006, National Parole Board member Jacques Letendre said that he "presents a high risk and a psychopathic risk. He is a sexual sadist and a narcissist. If released, he will kill again."

Olson was denied parole.

With files from The Canadian Press