Defence Minister Peter MacKay apologizes for Armed Forces booklet showing sex-killer Russell Williams

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

There are red faces in the Department of National Defence, including Minister Peter MacKay's, after a photo of convicted murderer Russell Williams found its way into a department promotional booklet.

MacKay issued a statement apologizing for "this terrible mistake," The Canadian Press reported.

Williams, an air force colonel and Canadian Forces Base Trenton commander, was a rising star in the military when he was exposed as a rapist and killer.

He's serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in 2010 to the murders of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd.

Williams, who admitted to 88 counts in all, including sexual assault and break-ins to fuel his underwear fetish, was stripped of his rank and the armed forces even burned his uniform.

The case rocked the armed forces as Canadians learned of Williams' bizarre double life.

The square-jawed decorated officer who'd piloted VIP aircraft carrying dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II, the prime minister and the governor-general, seemed headed for the highest posts in the military.

Yet the married Williams confessed to pursing his obsession with women's and young girls' underwear - even photographing himself masturbating in the items he stole from homes in Ottawa and Tweed, Ont., where the family had a cottage.

His activities, meticulously recorded in thousands of photos, escalated to sexual assault and murder.

Armed Forces spokeswoman Melanie Villeneuve told CBC News via email that the photo in the promo booklet showed Williams seated in the front row of a group of senior officers being addressed by Lt.-Gen. Andre Deschamps, chief of the air staff.

The photo appeared the 2012 Canadian Defence Academy publication, which Villeneuve said aimed "to reinforce the profession of arms to all Canadian Forces personnel and to emphasize the commitment, both institutional and personal, to continuous learning and professional development."

The booklet was distributed only within academy headquarters before the image of Williams was spotted. Most copies were recalled and destroyed but some have not been returned, Villeneuve told CBC.

The booklet's 4,000-copy press run cost $5,000 to print and it will cost a similar amount to produce a revised version.

Ottawa Citizen defence reporter David Pugliese noted the armed forces has tried to purge any trace of the once-admired Williams from its web sites.

MacKay said in his statement that he ordered the booklets destroyed as soon as he learned it included the photo depicting Williams.

"I intend to call the families of Mr. Williams' two murder victims to inform them of this terrible mistake and express our most sincere apologies on behalf of the entire military family," he said.

"I have also instructed my officials to immediately begin an investigation to ensure it does not happen again. This is a terrible mistake for which the Canadian Forces are truly sorry."