Lessons from the Russell Williams Case

Russell Williams is the former Canadian Air Force Colonel who lived a double life as a serial panty thief, rapist and murderer. It’s such a bizarre and horrifying case, little attention has been paid to how Williams managed to enter the homes of the women he stole from and terrorized.

I’ll be writing a chapter in the new edition of Home Invasion Prevention devoted exclusively to answering the question: how did he do it?

The short answer is that in most cases, his victims left windows, doors and patio doors open. In others, Williams removed external fly screens and climbed in ground floor or basement windows.

In a few cases, Williams used skills he developed as a teenager to pick the locks of targeted victims.

Frankly, I was astounded at how easy his break-ins were. It never occurred to me that anyone would leave a ground floor window open and rely on a fly screen for protection. Secondly it seemed extremely unlikely anyone these days still leaves his front or back door unlocked.

Williams proved me wrong. Based on this case, here are my (rather simple) suggestions:

  1. Close and lock all ground floor windows and doors.
  2. Place bars on all basement windows to prevent physical access.
  3. Replace consumer grade deadbolts in your exterior doors with commercial grade, unpickable cylinders.


Had the victims in the Russell Williams case taken these three steps, they would be alive today.

There’s more, of course, including the fact all four of his rape and murder victims were women living alone in detached, rural, homes, that none of them had functioning alarm systems and that no one locked their bedroom door.