Canada may expand air commander murder probe

Colonel Russell Williams, Wing Commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, is pictured in this September 20, 2009 handout photo. Williams has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, Ontario Provincial Police said February 8, 2010. REUTERS/Department of National Defence/Master Corporal Miranda Langguth/Handout

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian police said on Tuesday they are looking at reopening cold cases of slain women after having laid murder charges against the commanding officer of the country’s largest military air base.

Col. Russell Williams was charged on Sunday with the murder of two women, one of them a soldier at his air force base in Trenton, Ontario. Williams, who is 46 years old and married, is also charged with the sexual assault of two other women after having broken into their homes. For now he has been relieved of his duties.

Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kristine Rae said investigators were still collecting evidence on the homicide and assault cases.

“As the investigation progresses, they will be looking at other cases that come to our attention and looking for similarities, as we did with these cases,” she said.

News of the charges shocked the small communities in eastern Ontario that are at the center of the police investigation, as well as Canadian Forces Base Trenton, which handles tactical air support flights for Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan and relief flights for Haiti.

A spokesman for the air base said Trenton would press ahead with its military and relief operations regardless of the news.

“One individual’s action does not portray the entire military, and operations will carry on,” said Lt. Vincent Bedard.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson