Murder charges against colonel rock Canadian military
BELLEVILLE, Ont. — The Canadian military was rocked to its core Monday following the bombshell allegation that the colonel in command of the country’s largest air force base had killed two women and sexually assaulted two others.
Col. Russell Williams, a 46-yearold career member of the Canadian Forces, was charged Monday with first-degree murder in the deaths of Jessica Lloyd, 27, of Belleville, and Marie France Comeau, a 38-year-old corporal with CFB Trenton’s 437 squadron who was killed last November.
“ We’re all shocked,” said Lt. Annie Morin, a public affairs officer at CFB Trenton.
“ 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.”
Williams was an elite pilot, a “shining bright star” of the military who rose through the ranks during his 23-year career to fly the prime minister and Governor General across Canada and overseas in one of four Canadian Forces Challenger jets. He’s now charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in attacks on two other women in the region during home invasions last September.
Williams was appointed as the base commander of CFB Trenton last July. The high-profile military base is where troops depart from for Afghanistan and where repatriation ceremonies are held honouring slain soldiers. It is also a major search-and-rescue base and the main staging site for aid to Haiti.
Monday, military brass faced the cameras to express their condolences to the family’s of the victims and shock at who police had named as the suspect.
“I never worked with him closely and didn’t know him personally,” Maj.-Gen. Yvan Blondin, commander of the air force said.
“As far as I know from what I’ve seen from his file, he was just a shining bright star. If you talk to people on the wing they would probably tell you that they admired the wing commander ... Everybody is so surprised, we just do not know what to think about this.”
The charges raised questions about whether members of the military are required to undergo regular psychiatric testing as they assume higher command.
Blondin said such testing would only be ordered if there were signs of a problem.
Allegations that a predator was in their midst left women in eastern Ontario deeply unsettled.
Katrina Chapple, 27, of Trenton, said as a result of a warning from police she recently had an alarm system installed.
“It’s kind of scary. I have a house by myself just like ( Jessica) did,” Chapple said.
But Terra Dafoe, Lloyd’s friend since childhood, said police should have notified women sooner, as warnings came too late for her “good-hearted” friend.
She said women in the Belleville-area weren’t aware there was a possible predator on the loose until after Lloyd disappeared.