Russell Williams files defence against victim's lawsuit

Convicted murderer Russell Williams is fighting one of his surviving sexual assault victims in court. The move would force her to prove her claims of trauma and suicide attempts.
Russell Williams, pictured here leaving a Belleville, Ont., court in October 2010, has filed a defence claim against a lawsuit filed against him by one of his sexual assault victims. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Convicted murderer Russell Williams is defending himself against a $7.3-million lawsuit launched by one of his surviving sexual assault victims.

He is also asking that former neighbour Laurie Massicotte pay for his legal bills to fight her lawsuit.

His filing of a defence means Massicotte now has to prove her claims of pain and suffering.

In her claim, Massicotte said an attack on her by the former air force colonel has driven her to alcohol abuse, depression, suicide attempts and a wide range of emotional and mental distress.

Williams admits in his court documents to breaking into her home and sexually assaulting her — but denies any knowledge of the long-term consequences of his attack.

The papers were filed last month in court in Belleville, Ont.

Ex-colonel serving life in prison

The former commander of Canada's largest military airfield is serving a sentence of life in prison, already having admitted to a string of fetish raids and break-ins in Ottawa and Tweed, Ont., that escalated to late-night break-ins and sexual assaults on Massicotte and another woman who is being referred to in court proceedings as "Jane Doe."

He also admitted to sexually attacking and murdering Marie-France Comeau, 37, of Brighton, Ont., in November 2009 and Jessica Lloyd, 27, of Belleville, Ont., in January 2010.

Lloyd's family, Massicotte and Doe, whose real name is protected by a court-ordered publication ban, are all suing Williams and his estranged wife Mary Elizabeth Harriman.

Doe and the Lloyd family have been negotiating quietly behind the scenes to settle their financial claims against Williams and his wife, who are in the midst of a divorce.

Massicotte, who in her lawsuit documents is described as deeply troubled, has refused to participate in those negotiations.

She has gone through a string of legal representatives and currently doesn't have a lawyer representing her.

Her suit goes beyond claims against her attacker. She also seeks damages from the police and Crown, whom she alleges failed to alert her about a string of break-ins in her community before Williams attacked her.

Massicotte's suit on behalf of herself and her three children — and its varied claims against police — has been holding up Williams and Harriman from reaching settlements with the other victims.

Massicotte told CBC News that lawyers for Harriman offered to settle her claim in exchange for $75,000 and a commitment that she would drop her claims against police.

Massicotte refused, and said that recently she has been working to compile a set of claims against the Crown and police alleging a large conspiracy in the murder investigation. However, she's offered no proof .

In an email Thursday, Massicotte told CBC News: "I'm at a huge loss right now."

She refused a request for an in-person interview to discuss Williams's statement of defence.

Province denies responsibility

In the document, Williams also denies Massicotte's claim that just weeks after his arrest in February 2010, he fraudulently tried to transfer title of his marital property and other assets to Harriman in a bid to shield her from civil liability for his crimes.

Harriman has vigorously denied the claim in a previously filed statement of defence. She has also denied the same claim made by another of Williams's victims, who has also filed a lawsuit against the couple over the asset transfers.

In his statement of defence, Williams denies the conveyance was fraudulent, saying it was made in good faith to provide Harriman with financial security.

The province recently filed its statement of defence, denying it had a duty to warn Massicotte in the circumstances of the case.

"Ontario recognizes the extremely distressing experience that Ms. Massicotte endured as one of Williams' victims," the province says in the statement of defence.

"Ontario is committed to the prevention of crime and to the apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators of crime."

Like Williams, the province is asking that the lawsuit against it be dismissed with costs, which would leave Massicotte on the hook for the defendants' legal bills.

None of the allegations in Massicotte's lawsuit have been tested in court.

Send tips on this story to Dave Seglins.

With files from The Canadian Press