Civil suits against killer colonel Russell Williams inch forward

Russell Williams. (LUKE HENDRY/QMI Agency)

Russell Williams. (LUKE HENDRY/QMI Agency)

Jason Miller, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:52 PM ET

BELLEVILLE, Ont. -- Attempts to bundle several civil suits filed against convicted killer and former Canadian Forces colonel Russell Williams and his estranged wife will take another step forward this week.

Lawyers handling the case are anticipating a draft order seeking permission to compile the multiple suits under one umbrella will make its way to the regional senior justice for approval later this week.

The lawyers are calling for a Kingston, Ont., adjudicator to case manage the mounting files detailing damages sought by various victims.

Williams is serving life in prison in Kingston. He was convicted in October 2010 of sexually attacking two Tweed, Ont., women and the first-degree murders of Cpl. Marie- France Comeau, 37, of Brighton, Ont., and Jessica Lloyd, 27, of Belleville. He was also convicted of dozens of break-and-enters and thefts in Belleville, Tweed and Ottawa.

Administrative hiccups have been blamed for the slowed progression of the matter to its current stage, since Justice Robert Scott consented to recusing himself from the suit in September, agreeing that a Kingston judge handle claims being filed by plaintiffs and defendants in the multimillion-dollar civil suit.

“It's difficult getting everyone involved to sign the draft order,” said Mike Pretsell, representing the interest of murder victim Lloyd. “I hope by Wednesday to have the order ready to be signed.”

The next step will involve booking a meeting so all the parties can address their varied issues with the judge. Pretsell expects logistic roadblocks to slow that process as well.

“These things don't move quickly,” he said. “We're just getting started.”

It is only due to the special circumstances of the case that it was approved for case management to start with, he said.

“It's pretty unusual that judges will case manage any kind of civil case anywhere,” he said. “This is kind of unusual because of the number of people involved and the nature of what it is.”

The suits mostly involve victims of the former 8 Wing commander turned sadistic killer and some are directed against his wife, Mary-Elizabeth Harriman.

Chances of fresh suits arising have now diminished since the two-year limitation expired last month.

“Any limitation period people would have had presumably would have expired a few weeks ago on the two-year anniversary of his plea,” Pretsell said. “Theoretically there are some exceptions.”

Those exceptions could apply to sexual assault victims who can still make claims of trauma from their ordeals.

“I suspect that if other people were going to take part we would have heard from them by now,” he said.

All parties involved have agreed that case management is necessary to avoid an anticipated duplication of issues and evidence prevalent in all the lawsuits.

While a Kingston judge is being sought for the preliminary proceedings, Pretsell said the case is not moving to Kingston.

“If it ever comes to trial, or if there is any court hearings argued in the matter, it will be in Belleville court,” he said. “There is a community interest here about that case, so I won't agree to move it.”

Jason.miller@sunmedia.ca


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