A “sadistic sexual psychopath” who raped and murdered two teenage girls and attempted to kill a third – and who was deemed untreatable because of an overpowering urge to kill – has been released from prison on passes three times in the past six years and is seeking greater freedom, despite shocking conduct while behind bars, Cancrime learned. A parole board document (read it after the jump) reveals that serial killer Henry Williams (inset) sexually assaulted a young girl inside a federal penitentiary in Ontario where he is serving three life sentences.
Experts agreed, when Williams was convicted four decades ago, that he would have continued raping, torturing and killing if remarkable luck had not saved one of his victims and led to his arrest. Psychiatrists described him as “grossly psychopathic,” with roughly a dozen personality disorders and “like an animal.” Two psychiatrists recommended castration, though it was not performed. Williams confessed to police and testified in court that he was driven by fantasies of harming girls and women and that he derived great excitement and pleasure from their suffering. He felt compelled, he said, by an uncontrollable urge.
“It would just be building up inside me; it was like something taking over my body, something that I couldn’t control,” Williams testified, at one of his three trials in 1975. “It just kept building up and building up. “It was something inside me that was growing. It felt like I was going to come apart if it were not released.”
Release came, he said, when he raped and tortured. Though Williams claimed in court that he didn’t know why he killed, it was a transparent bid to minimize culpability. In a prior statement, he told police that “dead girls tell no tales.”
Williams was 24 at the time he was caught, married with two children, working at a brick factory in what is now Mississauga. He was in the early stages of a serial-killing career, and apparently testing his ability to hunt and kill without detection. Experts who later assessed him said he had a very rare mixture of about a dozen personality disorders that rendered him untreatable and meant he would likely continue murdering “over and over again.”
Evidence from his trials suggests he was exploring techniques to inflict pain and suffering. Victims were prodded or slashed with knives to cause pain and suffering but not in a manner that would cause death. Williams also strangled with his bare hands, with wire and battered his victims with his fists, rocks and other objects. In an act that appeared to have ritualistic significance, perhaps signature behaviour, he covered the bodies of his victims with debris, including rocks, wood and other material he found at the secluded spots where he assaulted them.
His diagnosis as a psychopath – a conscienceless predator driven by the need for self-gratification – is critical to understanding the future risk he poses. Psychopaths commit new crimes at a rate roughly double the rate of other criminals, according to Dr. Robert Hare, a Canadian psychologist considered a pioneer in the study of psychopaths. Psychopaths commit new violent crimes at a pace roughly triple other criminals. Sexual psychopaths are significantly more likely to commit new crimes. Hare has called the combination of psychopathy and sexual deviance a “deadly combination.”
Despite the threat Williams poses and the diagnoses that categorize him as among the most dangerous offenders – those who rarely respond to treatment – he has been granted passes to leave prison and other privileges, including visits inside penitentiary.
“According to file information, between June and September 2000, during a visit while incarcerated in a medium security institution, you engaged in sexual activity with a young female child, to whom you held a position of trust,” states the written record of a February 2017 parole hearing. “Your conduct included touching the victim’s vagina, exposing your penis, and coercing the victim to touch your penis.”
Williams was charged criminally and pleaded guilty to sexual interference, according to the document.
At the February 2017 parole hearing, Williams asked for passes to leave prison, without an escort, so that he can visit a sick family member. He wanted eight-hour passes that would allow him to take public transit to a hospital, while supervised by family. The parole board turned him down, citing a clinician’s assessment that it is too risky to release him without supervision or transfer him to minimum security.
“Caution must be exercised given that Mr. Williams committed a sexual act 26 years after his original offences and at an age when sexual proclivity should have been on the decline,” the clinician wrote, in an assessment.
Williams, now 67, has been out of prison, with an escort, at least three times in the past six years, the parole document reveals, most recently in January 2014 to attend a funeral. It appears that his recent stints of freedom have not been revealed publicly, until now.
The last time Williams was allowed out of prison and it came to public attention, in 1987, the news sparked public furor and anger from a surviving victim. A plan to release Williams without supervision at that time was cancelled amid the outcry. Williams appeared before a parole board panel in 2001 but was denied any form of release.
The police detective who spearheaded the investigation that led to Williams’ capture in 1974 says, “it’s insanity, it’s crazy” to grant him any freedom.
“This man should never, ever, ever be released and the judge said so,” William Teggart, 87, told Cancrime in an interview. Teggart was chief of the Peel department when he retired from a storied 35-year policing career in 1990. He believes a psychopath like Williams is “not going to stop.”
Teggart led a team of detectives that caught Williams 11 months after his first murder.
“It was great detective work to get him,” he said.
Williams was arrested in August 1974 and, after three trials, was sentenced to three terms of life in prison for the murders of Constance Dickey, 19, Neda Novak, 18, and the rape and attempted murder of Julia Sheldon, 16. All three were attacked in the Mississauga, Ontario area, just west of Toronto. Sheldon’s identification of Williams led to his capture. Before Williams was arrested, the crimes sparked community-wide fear and prompted warnings from police that young women should be cautious and should not hitchhike. Williams admitted to raping two other young women, though he was not prosecuted for those crimes.
“I could not stop; something just kept pushing me,” Williams testified in court, describing his murder of Dickey, a university student. “The more I hurt her, the more excited pleasure I got out of it.”
Dickey was from Prescott, in eastern Ontario, and was about to begin her first year at Erindale College, a campus of the University of Toronto in Mississauga. On Sept. 11, 1973, she was returning to the school on a wooded path that crossed a road where Williams had stopped his car. She asked him if the road was a shortcut to the campus. Williams told Dickey that he’d show her a shortcut, but instead took her to a secluded spot. He told her he wouldn’t hurt her if she co-operated. He raped her, struck her with his hands and then strangled her.
“I strangled her – wrapped wire around her neck and strangled her with it,” Williams told police, in a statement.
Her dragged the dying girl to the top of a hill and left her there.
“I went back later that night hoping she was still alive, knowing she was still alive when I left her the first time,” Williams told investigators. He felt the girl’s body and discovered it was cold. Williams claimed that he went home and cried, knowing that he had done something for which he should be punished and not knowing what was wrong with him. The murderer did not realize he had made a critical mistake and had left behind a crucial piece of evidence. Dickey’s body was found days after the murder.
Williams struck again three and a half weeks after killing Dickey.
On Oct. 5, he picked up high school student Neda Novak, 18, who was hitchhiking near Erindale Secondary School. The girl wanted to go to a nearby mall but instead Williams drove to a secluded area near the Streetsville Cemetery.
“I told her she was coming for a ride with me and that if she co-operated she would not get hurt,” Williams told police. He threatened the girl with a hunting knife.
“I gave her hope of being set free and then I showed her a knife,” Williams testified during his trial. “I could see the fear in her face.”
He took the girl’s socks, knotted them and stuffed them into her mouth as a gag. He raped the teenager, struck her and strangled her with his hands. Asked during his testimony how he felt when he was battering and raping her, Williams said: “Very excited.”
He covered the body with boards and left it along the bank of the Credit River, in an area known as a lover’s lane. Williams said the girl was still alive when he piled the debris on top of her, so he jumped onto the pile “because she was still moving.
“I stood on top of the platform until she did not move any more.”
More than six months later, a fisherman looking for worms discovered the body.
Williams told police that after he arrived at the spot where he planned to rape Novak, he decided he had to kill her.
“I realized I had told her too much on the way over – my name and where I worked – and stabbed her twice in the back. I tied her and gagged her,” he said, in his statement.
Williams sought to blame his violence on a troubled upbringing.
“I was returning all the pain that I had suffered at the hands of women,” he testified.
Williams was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick but was abandoned at birth and raised by adoptive parents, an alcoholic father employed in the military and a stay-at-home mother. He had two older sisters. He told clinicians his parents often argued and they moved often. Williams said that during his childhood he felt confused, not accepted and disliked.
Williams testified in court that he was called “Goofy” as a young boy and was spurned by females. When he was 13, his father died suddenly. It was then that he learned he had been abandoned and adopted. Williams began stealing women’s clothing, cross-dressing and masturbating. He also began committing vandalism and setting fires. He began fantasizing about raping and hurting girls.
“I wanted to make them pay for all the jokes that were made about me,” he said.
Williams married an elementary schoolteacher in 1972 in Mississauga, Ontario and immediately began abusing her.
“I just wanted to hurt her,” he testified. Williams said he married the woman “to get what I wanted. I did not marry her out of love.” The couple had two boys.
Karen Williams testified during one of the trials, telling the court that her husband often punched, pinched and slapped her. He would inflict painful injuries during sex and would sometimes explode in anger.
“I was so afraid that at times I said to him, ‘Henry, if you want to kill me, go ahead and do it,’ ” she testified.
Williams said he enjoyed hurting his wife.
“The more I hurt her, the more excited I got, the more pleasure I got out of it,” he testified. “It was the only way I could release myself, to get satisfaction.”
Williams said he considered killing his wife.
He said he often cruised around Mississauga in his car, looking for young girls to rape. On several occasion, he testified, victims leapt from his car before he could assault them.
Julia Sheldon wasn’t so lucky.
The 17-year-old from Gosport, England was visiting friends in Mississauga in the summer of 1974.
On August 17, she enjoyed a day of amusement park rides and carnival games at the Canadian National Exhibition and was hitchhiking to her friend’s home that evening because of a public transit strike. She was carrying a stuffed animal she had won at the CNE when Henry Williams picked her up.
Williams drove to a secluded area and pushed the terrified girl from his car, warning her that he had a knife. She had seen the weapon in the car.
“Do you want to live to see your next birthday?” Williams said, before raping her.
He tied her hands with a ribbon from the stuffed animal she had won at the exhibition and then, as she lay on the ground, touched her twice with the blade of his knife.
“I just had one intention in my mind, that was to get what I wanted,” Williams testified during his trial. “I had no control over what I was doing.”
Sheldon testified that Williams slowly pushed the knife into her left side. He also punched the girl with his fists, struck her on the head with a rock, dragged her and covered her body with debris, including bricks and rocks. In the midst of the act, Williams heard a siren and bolted. He did not know that it was an ambulance responding to a car crash at a nearby intersection.
Sheldon was seriously wounded but still alive beneath the debris. After she heard Williams drive away, she crawled out from the pile and staggered to the nearby crash scene. She spent three months in hospital recovering.
Critically, Sheldon gave police a description of her attacker and the name ‘William’ which she saw on the dash of the car. She told investigators that the man was wearing distinctive black and white checkered shorts.
Teggart, the retired police chief and detective, told Cancrime that investigators also tied Williams to the killings by tracing the manufacturer of the wire that was used to strangle Constance Dickey. Police discovered that the wire was sold to the Canada Brick Company in Mississauga and was used for cutting bricks.
Investigators learned that an employee named Henry Williams was known to wear distinctive checkered shorts. Williams was quickly arrested.
Confronted with the evidence that he had raped and attempted to kill Sheldon, Williams confessed to the two murders.
“OK, I did Dickie and Novak; you are going to find out anyway,” Williams told police, while crying.
Though Williams admitted to the murders and rapes during his three trials, he pleaded not guilty because of insanity and sought to be committed to a mental health facility. In each case, the argument was rejected and he was ordered to prison.
After the third conviction, Williams cried and told the court: “I am very sorry for what has happened and I ask for help.”
Survivor Julia Sheldon eventually made her home in Canada and, remarkably, became a police officer in the Peel department.
In 1987, she wrote to the parole board, imploring members not to release Williams.
“I was face to face with that man,” Sheldon, then 29, wrote. “I saw into his eyes. He may have you convinced that he’s rehabilitated and has paid his dues, but that man will kill again.
“There is something in him that drives him to rape and kill that nothing can change. He should be locked up, the key thrown away.”
Williams can continue to seek release.
Teggart said a psychopath like Williams is “not going to stop.”
Chronology of the Case
» Sept. 11, 1973: Henry Robert Williams, then 24, attacks Constance Dickey, 19, who was walking through a wooded area in Mississauga on the Erindale College campus. She is raped and strangled with a wire
» Sept. 16, 1973: Dickey’s body found
» Oct. 5, 1973: picks up Neda Novak, 18, who was hitchhiking on Southdown Road in Mississauga. Williams drives to a secluded area near the Streetsville Cemetery, rapes Novak and stabs her.
» April 30, 1974: Novak’s body found
» Aug. 19, 1974: picks up hitchhiker Julia Sheldon, 16, who is returning to a friend’s home in Mississauga after a trip to the Canadian National Exhibition; drives her to a secluded field, rapes her, ties her hands with a ribbon from a stuffed animal she won at the exhibition; slowly pushes a knife into her left side, hits her with rocks; Williams hurriedly covered her with stones and other debris and fled after hearing a siren – he did not know it was an ambulance responding to a nearby car crash; Sheldon crawled out from under the debris and ran to the crash scene
» Aug. 20, 1974: Williams arrested at his home in Streetsville after Sheldon described her attacker; Williams confesses to the attacks including the murders of Dickey and Novak and says he raped two other girls
» 1975: Convicted of two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder and sentenced to three life terms, with no chance of parole for 20 years.
» 1985: Ten years after his conviction, begins receiving escorted passes to leave prison
» 1987: Plan to release Williams on unescorted passes is rescinded after concern expressed by police and victims, leading to public outcry
» 2000: Sexually assaults a young girl during a visit at the medium-security Ontario prison where he is incarcerated
» 2011, 2013, 2014: receives escorted passes to leave prison for short periods
» February 2017: request for unescorted passes from prison denied
Written record of Henry Williams parole hearing February 3, 2017:
Written record of Henry Williams parole hearing January 26, 2001: