The statements were given to Ontario Provincial Police detectives on Sunday at Ottawa Police headquarters. On Monday, he led police to the body of Jessica Lloyd, one of two women the disgraced colonel is accused of killing.
Forensic investigators began searching Williams’ Ottawa home Thursday. They were looking for specific items, including women’s bras and panties, and digital storage devices, computer equipment, camera and video gear, and photographs.
Williams is charged in the deaths of Belleville, Ont., resident Lloyd, 27, and Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 37, who was posted to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, the busy air force base that Williams commanded.
He is also charged with the forcible confinement and sexual assault of two other women in nearby Tweed, Ont., where he has a cottage. The victims in the latter two cases were bound naked to chairs and photographed by their attacker.
After his first interview with police, which ran into the night, OPP searched his cottage in Tweed for women’s undergarments — including a bra and thong — baby blankets, digital storage devices and a white shoe as part of their investigation into the two home-invasion sexual assaults.
On Thursday, a dozen OPP forensic officers arrived just after noon at the three-storey Ottawa home where Williams lives with his wife, Mary Elizabeth Harriman.
Detectives covered all the windows at the front of the house and filed inside through the garage, carrying hard-yellow cases, black brief cases, file folders and flattened boxes.
Police wouldn’t say what, if anything, was found in Williams’ Ottawa home as they streamed out empty-handed Thursday evening.
OPP investigators said they were to continue their search Friday.
An OPP cruiser remained on guard at the front of the residence after the forensics team left.
Meanwhile, details of the man’s fractured family life emerged Thursday, as Williams’ relatives spoke out for the first time since the charges.
They said the colonel was still young when his father and mother split. The young Williams continued to live with his mother and his new stepfather, Dr. Jerry Sovka, an eminent nuclear scientist. However, that marriage also turned sour.
“Our relationship with him was broken off in early 2001 when our mother’s divorce from my stepfather caused a deep rift between him and my mother and myself,” said his brother, Harvey Williams, in a written statement.
Two years ago his mother and brother reached out to Williams, 46, in a bid at reconciliation following the divorce. “We rarely had any contact until two years ago when my mother and I tried to find a way to repair the family rift. We have had only minimal contact with him in the past two years.”
“We were shocked and appalled to learn of the crimes with which Col. Williams is being charged,” he said, calling it “alarming and distressing news.”
Williams and Harriman have been a couple since at least 1991, the year a search of old city directories shows they were sharing the same apartment in Portage la Prairie, Man., where Williams was then working as a flying instructor at the Canadian Forces Flying Training School. The two have no children.
Williams graduated with a degree in economics and political science from the University of Toronto in 1987, and in the early ’80s attended Upper Canada College, the sprawling private Toronto boys school whose graduates include Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, Loblaw executive chairman Galen Weston, billionaire David Thomson and author Robertson Davies.
The news that Williams, or Russ Sovka, as he was then known, was charged came as a surprise, said Cristina Coraggio, a spokeswoman for the college.
She said the school only realized that Sovka was Williams late Wednesday.
“We’re shocked by the allegations, but keep in mind, it was 28 years ago,” she said.
Williams went to the school from 1980-82. He boarded there and was a prefect, whose job was to mentor younger boys.
“From what I understand, he was a fine, upstanding student. He kept a lower profile. He was a very good musician,” Coraggio said.
Williams played trumpet, and his interest in music was obvious from his entry in the 1982 College Times: a quote by Louis Armstrong — “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” He also wrote: “Thank you all to those who made these two years possible, enjoyable.”
The current vice-principal of the school, Innes van Nostrand, said “most people from our time at the school would remember him as a diligent, responsible, serious hard-working guy who was really good at the trumpet, as well.”
Van Nostrand, who also graduated in 1982, but did not board at the school, said “the stories and the allegations in general, have been pretty shocking for everyone in the broader community, and I think any time anyone would find a situation where someone they went to school with was being implicated, and with those kinds of allegations, the shock is compounded, and certainly that would be the case for the people who were at school here at that time.”
Andrew Saxton, a Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of North Vancouver, was one of those students, having attended Upper Canada College at the same time as Williams. He said Thursday he was shocked his former classmate had been implicated in the investigation.
“I went to high school with Col. Williams many years ago when he went by the name ‘Russ Sovka.’ However, I have not seen him for nearly three decades and did not realize he was the same person with whom I went to school until (Thursday) morning,” he said through an e-mail from his constituency office.
“I extend my sympathies to the families affected by these tragic events. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further.”
Kevin Barnett, who now lives in Ottawa but who once bought a house from Williams in Portage la Prairie, Man., described the fallen air force leader as a “hard-working, diligent individual.”
“I always knew him to be the person you see as the military has been saying. I’m as stunned as anyone else.”
Williams has been alternately described as pleasant, professional, standoffish, quiet and, in one case, brilliant, by acquaintances.
Williams, who is being held at the Quinte Detention Centre, near Napanee in eastern Ontario, spoke with the prison chaplain Thursday, an official said, but Williams declined to speak to a reporter.
“He’s not interested in an interview,” said Larry Shorts, the deputy superintendent of the barbed-wire complex.
The remand centre houses a wide range of offenders, in minimum-security dorms and maximum-security cells shared by two or three inmates.
Meanwhile, in the town of Trenton, there was talk Thursday of soldiers being harassed and spat upon by angry townsfolk.
If there is any truth to the tales of fractured relations between town residents and military personnel in the town, one would be hard pressed to find it. Most people say they support the military more than ever.
Yet at the aptly titled Rumours bar, a military hangout, owner and former military pilot Pierre Bouchard said he’s heard of soldiers being yelled at or spit on in public since news of Williams’ arrest last Sunday.
While he, like most others in and around Trenton, said he was shocked and dismayed by the allegations against Williams, Bouchard said he hoped it wouldn’t affect military morale.
“This town survives because of the base,” said Bouchard. “I (would) hate to see people become ashamed of their uniform.”
Authorities were mum on Williams’ incarceration.
“We don’t discuss any information about the conditions of his custody,” said Stuart McGetrick, a Correctional Services spokesman.
Across the country, police forces are looking to their cold cases for similarities to the murders of the two Ontario women.
Media inquiries about unsolved homicides have been made in other cities where Williams was also stationed with the Canadian Forces, including Ontario and Manitoba.
Williams has not been ruled outas a suspect in the unsolved 2001 death at CFB Trenton of Kathleen MacVicar, 19.
In Halifax, police said there is no evidence to suggest any connection with their cold cases.
“That is exactly correct,” said Halifax Regional Police Const. Brian Palmeter.
Palmeter told Canwest News Service his force received a number of calls asking whether there was any connection with any cold cases in the area because Williams had served at CFB Shearwater, near Halifax. But Palmeter said the Halifax and Ontario officers have not discussed any evidence in the specific cases.
“We reached out and contacted the investigators from the OPP. That was specifically as a result of various calls we were receiving from various media outlets across Canada after the story broke out of Trenton. That’s why we called them. Our investigators reached out and contacted those investigators and had a very brief conversation.”
Palmeter said three cold cases in Halifax involved the deaths of young women, including one in January 1992 and another in late November 1994. But Palmeter said there is no evidence Williams was even in the area during those times
“We were getting a lot of calls trying to connect him to these files and I said we had no information. We don’t even know that this guy was here when these happened.”
Ontario Provincial Police said the focus of its investigation is on the current cases before the courts involving Williams as a suspect. The force has yet to begin any detailed investigations on cold cases, Sgt. Kristine Rae said.
The Toronto Police Service does not consider Williams a suspect in any unsolved homicide or assault cases in that city, spokeswoman Const. Wendy Drummond said.
However, the family of a Toronto woman murdered nearly 30 years ago insisted cold-case investigators are probing possible connections to that slaying and another as well. In 1983, Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice were sexually assaulted and murdered within four months of each another in downtown Toronto. DNA evidence revealed that both women had been killed by the same man.
Gilmour’s brother, Sean McCowan, told Global News he called Det.-Sgt. Steve Ryan of the Toronto Police Cold Case Squad on Tuesday. “(Ryan) just mentioned that the colonel is a person of interest and they’re going to take a look at it,” McCowan said.
Ottawa police are also probing unsolved cases, including the violent 2007 sexual assault of a Carleton University student.
“We’re pulling cases right now, but don’t have enough info from OPP,” said Ottawa police Chief Vern White. “We’re examining our cases from the modus operandi.”
Comeau had been working as a flight attendant based at CFB Trenton for six months when she was killed.
Her body was found in her home in Brighton, Ont., a small town about 15 kilometres west of Trenton, on Nov. 25.
Lloyd went missing Jan. 28, after texting a friend that she’d arrived safe at her Belleville home.
Police found her body after arresting Williams.
An autopsy on Lloyd’s body was completed Wednesday, but police would not release the cause of death.
Police said it was a roadside canvass on a nearby highway that made Williams a person of interest in the case. Police were led to Williams after stopping cars at a roadside checkpoint to match truck snow tires with a unique design.
Rae would not comment on the treads nor whether Williams confessed to police.
“I can’t speak about anything evidentiary,” said Rae.
Williams’ next court appearance is set for Feb. 18 in Belleville.
Ottawa Citizen and National Post
With files from Linda Nguyen, Mike Barber, Tony Spears and Alyssa Dalton
CNS 2/11/10 22:36:50