Did sex-killer Russell Williams’ wife know about his double life?

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

One of Canada's most notorious killers is rotting in a federal prison but the legal wrangling surrounding Russsell Williams' secret, murderously perverted life will continue for years.

The secrecy aspect of that life now is in contention as one of the former air force colonel's surviving victims alleges Williams' wife knew of his activities, Maclean's reports.

Laurie Massicotte, who initially filed suit against Williams and Mary Elizabeth Harriman in 2011, has submitted an amended statement of claim that alleges Harriman "was aware" of her husband's "illicit conduct" but "did not report that conduct to police," Maclean's says.

Harriman's statement of defence rejects the claim, saying Massicotte has "provided no evidence whatsoever to support" her "frivolous" and "vexatious" claim.

“These allegations are scandalous and are nothing more than an attempt to diminish Ms. Harriman in the eyes of the public and the eyes of the Court," Harriman's lawyers said in a prepared statement to Maclean's.

[ Related: Russell Williams sued by victim's family ]

Williams, the former commander of CFB Trenton, south of Ottawa, pleaded guilty in 2010 to 88 charges, including two counts of first-degree murder, two home-invasion sexual assaults and a raft of burglaries fuelled by his obsession with women's lingerie. He's serving a life sentence with no parole eligibility for at least 25 years.

A respected pilot who flew VIPs including the Queen and prime ministers, Williams successfully led a double life until an intensive police investigation into the January 2010 disappearance of Jessica Lloyd connected the tire treads of his SUV to those found near the woman's home.

Williams was summoned for questioning and broke down during a 10-hour interview, providing a confession and leading investigators to Lloyd's body. He was also charged later with the death of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, a military flight attendant at CFB Trenton, whose body was found in her home in 2009.

Police discovered caches of stolen underwear and photos at the Williams home in Ottawa and at their cottage near Tweed, Ont.

Since the criminal case ended, Williams and his wife have been hit with several lawsuits filed on behalf of some of his victims.

One suit, filed by a man initially suspected in Williams' crimes, was dismissed last fall, the Toronto Sun reported.

Massicotte, the Lloyd family and a third plaintiff named only as Jane Doe, are also suing Williams and Harriman.

The killer's admissions during that marathon interrogation figure into Massicotte's suit, Maclean's noted.

When Williams was told investigators were searching the couple's Ottawa home, he replied: "I'm struggling with how upset my wife is right now." He continued to express concern about how the investigation was affecting Harriman and later sent her a note saying "I am so very sorry for having hurt you like this," Maclean's said.

Harriman, a senior executive with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, has never spoken publicly about her husband's crimes but has stated in court filings related to the suits that she was unaware of his double life.

[ Related: Murderer Russell Williams files to have victim pay his legal bills ]

“This is a total harassment of a completely innocent woman," her lawyer, Mary Jane Binks, told the Globe and Mail in 2012. "And at the end of the day, the result will show that she’s a totally innocent woman.”

Massicotte, who lived just three doors down from the Tweed cottage Williams and his wife owned, was attacked in her home a few weeks before he committed his first murder. He cut off her clothes with a knife, sexually assaulted her and forced her to pose for photos for his collection of mementoes that included hundreds of pieces of underwear stolen from victims.

Massicotte, who is suing the couple for $7 million, claims Harriman knew what her husband was doing and chose not to report him. Her lawyers are opposing the amended statement of claim at an upcoming hearing, arguing the materials filed so far "introduce no evidence whatsoever" to support allegations of Harriman's tacit complicity.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Soon after his arrest, Williams transferred full ownership of the couple's Ottawa home to his wife in return for $62,000 cash, while Williams took sole ownership of the Tweed cottage, which was later sold and the proceeds put into a trust account pending outcome of the lawsuits.

Williams' victims have described the the deal as "clearly suspicious," though Harriman has denied it was intended to shield Williams' assets from civil litigation.

Harriman started divorce proceedings soon after Williams' guilty plea but Maclean's says the two are still married.