BELLEVILLE, Ont. — Col. Russell Williams indulged his fetish for women’s and girl’s lingerie by taking thousands of pornographic photographs of himself wearing their stolen underwear — and sometimes masturbating for the camera — before his sexual obsession escalated to sex assault and murder, court heard Monday.
Graphic images of the decorated Canadian military commander posed in the lingerie he collected as trophies flashed on screens in an eastern Ontario court, after Williams pleaded guilty to two murders, two sexual assaults and 82 break and enters.
The Crown says the pornographic images and other “extremely disturbing” evidence trace the escalation of Williams’s crimes, starting from break and enters in 2007 to the sexual assaults of two women last fall and, ultimately, the murder of two more.
The evidence included a photograph of himself in the bedroom of a 12-year-old girl whose parents he was friendly with — the girl would often take care of the colonel and his wife’s beloved cat.
He returned to the girl’s room at least two other times, court heard, taking photos of himself masturbating on her bed and wearing one of the girl’s skirts.
Court heard Williams broke into at least a dozen bedrooms of girls under the age of 18, including one shared by 11-year-old twin girls.
One 12-year-old girl found a message from Williams typed on her computer screen — “merci.”
He admitted to police he sought out homes where “attractive young women” lived, targeting those in their late teens to early 30s.
The former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Canada’s largest airfield, was so obsessive in his collection of undergarments that he had to burn some of his trophies in a field to make room for more.
Williams, 47, kept a “complex” filing system and a log of all his offences. Photos were time and date stamped and kept on hard drives that were found stored in the ceiling in the basement of his Ottawa home.
He was a rising star in the military before being charged in February with first-degree murder in the deaths of Jessica Lloyd, 27, and Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 38.
Williams reportedly came to the attention of police at a Feb. 4 roadside checkpoint — just days after Lloyd was killed — when his SUV’s unusual tires were linked to tread marks at one of the crime scenes.
He faces an automatic sentence of life in prison, with no possibility of parole for at least 25 years.
The charges against Williams were so many, it took nearly 40 minutes to read them into the court record.
Canada’s top soldier, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, said the military is working as “quickly as possible” to remove Williams from its ranks.
A formal conviction in the case — expected after evidence supporting the 88 counts is officially entered into the court record — will allow the military to begin the process to release him from the Canadian Forces, Natynczyk said.
The once celebrated commander was expressionless as he entered the court shackled at the ankles and handcuffed, wearing a dark suit and grey button-down shirt.
Williams kept his head down as the charges were read and evidence presented.
“Guilty, your honour,” he said after the charges were entered.
Court heard Williams masturbated in the home of three girls — ages nine, 11 and 13 — which he called the “mystery little girls” because he couldn’t identify them. He also took photos of their beds with toys and underwear laid out on them.
In 2008, he broke into an Ottawa home where a 24-year-old woman lived and stole 87 pieces of lingerie and underwear and a sex toy.
The entering of evidence at court was expected to last several days, after which victim impact statements will also be presented.
Lloyd’s mother Roxanne entered the courtroom carrying a framed photo of her daughter. Several other family members, including Lloyd’s brother Andy, were in the packed courtroom as well.
The stark contrast between the images of a successful military man and a depraved sexual predator has drawn intense public attention.
Experts say the Williams case is distinct because it is unusual for panty thieves to escalate from break and enters to murder. It is also unusual for a man to turn to crime in his mid-40s.
Toronto criminal lawyer Adam Boni calls the now exposed double life led by Williams a “Jekyll and Hyde” scenario, something that hasn’t been seen before in Canada.
Comeau was found dead in her home in Brighton, Ont., last November while Lloyd was found in nearby Tweed.
Comeau was a flight attendant at CFB Trenton and served 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.
Court documents show Williams is alleged to have burglarized Comeau’s home some 10 days before she was found dead on Nov. 25. The information does not specify what was allegedly stolen.
Lloyd worked in Napanee, Ont., co-ordinating school-bus schedules.
The charges shook the Canadian Forces to its core, with officials left wondering how someone like Williams could have passed through the intense psychological screening members of the military are subjected to as they rise through the ranks.
Journalists covering the hearing Monday started lining up outside the courthouse at 6 a.m. and more than 30 filled up six benches set aside for them.
Others were in another room set aside for the media, where they followed the proceedings by video.
One of Williams’ sex assault victims, who has launched a lawsuit, claims a “horrific and reprehensible” sexual attack has left her fearful and suicidal.
The civil suit allegations have not been proven in court.