Interim commander will replace Williams

The Canadian military has expressed shock at the murder charges laid against Col. Russell Williams and says it will appoint an interim commander to replace him as head of 8 Wing/CFB Trenton.
Col. Russell Williams, centre, speaks to Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, left, and Defence Minister Peter MacKay during a visit to CFB Trenton on Jan. 17. ((Combat Camera))

The Canadian military expressed shock Monday at the murder charges laid against Col. Russell Williams and said it will appoint an interim commander to replace him as head of 8 Wing/CFB Trenton.

Lt.-Gen. André Deschamps, chief of air staff for the Canadian Forces, issued a statement that "although one is considered innocent until proven guilty, in light of the seriousness of the charges, and in consideration of the high level of responsibilities" attached to Williams's position, an interim commander will be appointed soon.

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

A review will also be done by 1 Canadian Air Division in Winnipeg to determine the most appropriate action pending the outcome of his trial, the statement said.

At a news conference in Trenton, Maj.-Gen. Yvan Blondin, commander of the air force, said "we are shocked" by the charges against Williams.

"We take the charges very seriously," he said. "It is untenable for him to act as commander of 8 Wing at this time."

Blondin said Lt.-Col. Dave Murphy will be acting commander until an interim replacement for Williams is named.

"I never worked with him [Williams] closely and didn't know him personally," Blondin 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," he said. "Everybody is so surprised, we just do not know what to think about this."

Canada's chief of defence staff also said military members are "in shock" following the charges.

"This is a tough day for anyone in uniform," Gen. Walter Natynczyk told the Kingston Whig-Standard while visiting CFB Kingston on Monday.

With files from The Canadian Press