Police search air force colonel’s Ottawa home for evidence in murder cases
OTTAWA (CP) — Forensic investigators from the Ontario Provincial Police spent hours Thursday combing through the Ottawa home of an air force colonel charged in the murders of two women and the sexual assaults of two others.
Six plainclothes officers carrying boxes arrived at the semidetached house shared by Col. Russell Williams and his wife shortly after noon.
They papered over windows at the home in Ottawa’s Tony Westboro neighbourhood. The couple’s BMW remained parked in the driveway.
Williams, the former commander of Canada’s largest military airfield, Canadian Forces Base Trenton, was arrested Sunday in Ottawa. The body of one of the victims, Jessica Lloyd, was found Monday.
Williams, 46, of Tweed, Ont., was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Lloyd, 27, and Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 37.
Comeau was based Trenton and served as a steward aboard the same military VIP flights Williams piloted for much of the 1990s, ferrying the Governor General, the prime minister and other dignitaries on domestic and overseas trips.
Williams is also charged with two sexual assaults in the same Tweed neighbourhood where he and wife Mary Elizabeth Harriman had a cottage. Tweed is near CFB Trenton.
Harriman is the associate executive director of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and was living in the couple’s recently built Ottawa home.
According to a search warrant issued before Williams emerged as the primary suspect in the cases, detectives entered the home of a prior suspect looking for lingerie, baby blankets and computer data storage devices.
The warrant was related to attacks on two women who were bound and sexually assaulted in their homes last September. Both women lived within walking distance of the Williams cottage.
Besides two first-degree murder charges, Williams faces two counts of forcible confinement and two counts of break and enter and sexual assault relating to the attacks. His cottage was cordoned off by police tape and an OPP trailer was parked outside earlier this week.
Williams reportedly came to the attention of investigators at a roadside checkpoint last week when his SUV’s unusual tires were linked to treadmarks at one of the crime scenes.
A Kingston, Ont., newspaper reports Williams was placed on a suicide watch when he first he arrived at a provincial jail in Napanee, Ont.
Williams would only give authorities his name, rank and serial number when he was first processed at the Quinte Detention Centre, the WhigStandard reported sources as saying Thursday.
On Wednesday, Williams was allowed to exchange his suicide gown for a regular, orange jumpsuit, the paper reported.
Police are looking into Williams’ past postings to see if there are any links to similar cold-case files elsewhere.
Williams attended Upper Canada College, an elite Toronto boarding school, for two years in the early 1980s. At the time, he went by his stepfather’s surname, Sovka.
He flew under the radar during his time there, said Innes van Nostrand, who graduated the same year as Williams.
“He was kind of a diligent, hard-working fellow who was not a high-profile guy here,” said van Nostrand, now a vice-principal at the school.
“ That’s how I think most people in the class would probably describe him: a serious student and a really good musician.”
He was known as a talented trumpet player and an upstanding student who showed leadership qualities even then. According to his yearbook writeup, he was among five prefects at his dorm known as Wedd’s House. He graduated in 1982.
“It came as a shock,” van Nostrand said.
The brother of Williams’ former stepfather, Stan Sovka, and his wife Madeline were stunned to learn of the charges.
“ That’s not the guy we know,” Madeline Sovka said from Calgary.
“ We knew a very nice man, a nice boy growing up, no problem, very gentle.”
The Sovkas haven’t seen Williams in many years, but they have been kept up-to-date on his life from his mother, Nonie Sovka, who was married to Stan Sovka’s brother, Jerry.