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29 November 2023

Canadian military commander charged over women's murders headed Dubai squadron

Colonel Russell Williams has been charged with murdering two women, as investigations continue. He reportedly headed a Canadian military base near Dubai. (REUTERS)

A Canadian military base commander who once piloted the prime minister's jet has been charged with murdering two women and sexually assaulting two others, police said Monday.

Colonel Russell Williams, 46, was arrested on Sunday for the disappearance and death of a 27-year-old woman last heard from on January 28 when she sent a text message to a friend.

Her body was found on Monday on a rural roadside near Williams's home in Tweed, Ontario, about 215 kilometres east of Toronto.

Police said a review of similar unsolved cases in the region led to further charges being laid in the murder of a corporal under Williams' command at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. She was found dead in her home in November.

Williams, who is married, was also charged in two home invasions in September in which two women were confined and sexually assaulted.

"Due to similarities in those incidents, the police investigative team linked (last month's murder) to other crimes," Ontario Provincial Police said in a statement.

At a press conference they suggested Williams may also be tied to other unsolved crimes, which police are investigating with the help of military police.

"We are certainly tracking the movements of where this man has been over the past several years, and we're continuing on with our investigation," Ontario Provincial Police Inspector Chris Nicholas told reporters.

According to his biography, Williams is an amateur photographer and track runner, and enjoys fishing and golf with his wife.

He once piloted the CC 144 Challenger jet used to ferry Canada's governor general and prime minister, as well as the British royal family when they visit this country.

He has commanded 437 Squadron in Trenton for nearly two years, and previously was in charge of Canada's secretive Camp Mirage in the Middle East, said to be located near Dubai.

Following his arrest, public broadcaster CBC aired video footage of him once chatting with Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay while CTV said he is on a first-name basis with the chief of the defence staff.

"In light of the seriousness of the charges, and in consideration of the high level of responsibilities attached to the position of Wing Commander, an interim Wing Commander for 8 Wing Trenton will soon be appointed," Chief of The Air Staff Lieutenant-General Andre Deschamps said in a statement.

"Also, in the coming days, a review will be initiated by 1 Canadian Air Division, in Winnipeg, to determine the most appropriate action to take regarding Colonel Williams pending the outcome of the trial," he said.

"This situation affects us all," he commented.


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