Biography: Russell Williams

Russell Williams, a former high-ranking Canadian military commander who met with senior politicians and was quoted extensively about the war in Afghanistan and the earthquake in Haiti, pleaded guilty to two charges of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of two women from eastern Ontario.

Russell Williams was a high-ranking Canadian military commander who met with senior politicians and was quoted extensively about the war in Afghanistan. Then, in February 2010, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two women from eastern Ontario.

In addition to the slayings of Jessica Lloyd, 27, and Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 38, Williams was charged with forcible confinement and sexual assaults on two other women, as well as 82 counts of breaking and entering and attempted breaking and entering.

The decorated former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton pleaded guilty to all charges in October 2010 and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The Department of National Defence said on Dec. 10, 2010, that the former colonel had been officially expelled from the Canadian Forces.

Here's a look at key points in Williams's background and military career:


Russell Williams was born on March 7, 1963, in the Midlands region of England. At a young age he moved to Chalk River, Ont. and later to a house near the Scarborough Bluffs east of downtown Toronto.


Williams started high school at Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute in 1978 and left in 1979. During this time he went by the name Russ Sovka. For his final two years of high school, he attended Upper Canada College, an elite private school in Toronto. In 1982, during his final year at UCC, his peers elected him as one of prefects in his boarding house.


The precise date is still unclear, but he returned to using the surname Williams. During his undergraduate years, Williams began his pilot career and took flying lessons at Toronto's Buttonville airport. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in economics and political science, he joined the military in 1987.


Williams earns his wings and is posted to 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, based in Portage La Prairie, Man., where he serves for two years as an instructor.


Col. Russell Williams has pleaded guilty to all 88 charges against him, including two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of sexual assault. ((Gerri Weatherbee/Northumberland Today))

Williams is posted to 434 Combat Support Squadron in Shearwater, N.S., where he flies the CC-144 Challenger in the electronic warfare and coastal patrol role.

He is then posted to the 412 Transport Squadron in Ottawa, where he transports VIPs, including high-ranking government officials and foreign dignitaries, also on Challengers.

November 1999

Williams is promoted to the rank of major and is posted to Director General Military Careers, where he serves as the multi-engine pilot career manager.

August 2003 to June 2004

Williams obtains a master's of defence studies from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

June 2004

Williams is promoted to lieutenant-colonel and appointed commanding officer of 437 Transport Squadron in Trenton, Ont., a post he held for two years.

December 2005 to June 2006

Williams is the commanding officer at Camp Mirage, the Canadian Forces forward logistics base that's not officially acknowledged by the government or military but has been widely reported to be near Dubai. 

July 2006

Williams is posted to the Directorate of Air Requirements, where he served as project director for the Airlift Capability Projects Strategic (CC177 Globemaster III) and Tactical (CC130J Hercules J), and Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue.

January 2009

Williams is posted to the Canadian Forces Language School in Gatineau, Que., for six months of French-language training, during which he is promoted to the rank of colonel.

July 15, 2009

Williams succeeds Col. Mike Hood as commanding officer at CFB Trenton.

Dec. 11, 2009

Williams welcomes the Olympic torch when it stops in Trenton. " It's very exciting to be a part of this," he says.

As 8 Wing Commander, Williams takes part in a number of public appearances. In the fall of 2009 he was on hand when the Belleville Bulls hockey team dedicated its 2009-2010 season to the men, women and families of 8 Wing Trenton.

Jan. 30, 2010

Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 38, left, was slain Nov. 25, 2009. The body of Jessica Lloyd, 27, was found by police on Feb. 8. (Canadian Press)

Williams is interviewed about 8 Wing's participation in Haiti relief. He says that in addition to Haiti, 8 Wing co-ordinates the resupply for Canada's mission in Afghanistan and air support for the Vancouver Olympics, which has a significant military presence.

Feb. 7

Williams is arrested in Ottawa and charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jessica Lloyd, 27, and Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 38.

He is also charged with two sexual assaults that happened in Tweed in September.

Oct. 18

In a Belleville, Ont., courtroom, Williams pleads guilty to all 88 charges against him. These include two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of sexual assault and two counts of forcible containment, as well as 82 counts of breaking and entering and attempted breaking and entering.

Oct. 21

The former commander of CFB Trenton is sentenced to two life terms for the first-degree murders in Ontario of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 38, of Brighton and Jessica Lloyd, 27, of Belleville.

Oct. 22

Williams's commission is revoked by the military.

Dec. 10

Former colonel and convicted murderer Russell Williams is officially expelled from the Canadian Forces, according to an announcement by the Department of National Defence. In finalizing his release, officials retrieved his South-West Asia Service Medal with Afghanistan bar and Canadian Forces Decoration with clasp and Commission Scroll.

Additional information

According to Williams's DND profile, he is a keen photographer, fisherman, musician and runner. He and his wife, Mary-Elizabeth Harriman, have homes in Tweed, Ont., which is about 60 kilometres northeast of CFB Trenton, and a house in Ottawa, which was being renovated at the time of his arrest.