Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Kingston Penitentiary's notorious inmates

Police chief Julian Fantino holds a photo of Holly Jones' murderer Michael Briere during a press conference on June 23, 2003.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Paul Bernardo

The serial rapist was sent to Kingston after getting two life sentences for torturing, raping and murdering Kristen French, 15, and Leslie Mahaffy, 14.

He is locked in a 2.5-by-3-metre cell and is only allowed outside to exercise alone for one hour a day.

Story continues below advertisement

In 2001, the Toronto Sun reported that a guard was suspended for allegedly giving him a copy of Maxim magazine.

His former wife and accomplice, Karla Homolka was once held at the Kingston Penitentiary's prison for women. She was later in a penitentiary in Quebec and was released in 2005.

Russell Williams

The one-time commander of the Trenton air base was sent to Kingston Penitentiary after four days of shocking testimony in a Belleville, Ont., court where he pleaded guilty to a series of burglaries, sex assaults and the brutal sex slayings of Marie-France Comeau , 37, who served under his command, and Jessica Lloyd, 27.

Like Paul Bernardo, the former air force colonel is held in the Lower H segregated range, away from the rest of the prison population.

Clifford Olson

The British Columbia serial child killer spent 10 years in isolation at the Kingston Penitentiary before his transfer in 1992 to the Special Handling Unit of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert, Sask.

Story continues below advertisement

He once filed a legal complaint that the installation in front of his cell of a Plexiglas pane to shield him from other inmates, amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Michael Briere

In 2004 he was driven directly to Kingston Penitentiary by Toronto homicide detectives after he pleaded guilty to abducting 14-year-old Holly Jones, sexually assaulting her, strangling her and dismembering the body.

He is also held in protective custody in the Lower H segregated range away from the general prison population.

Mohammad Shafia and his son Hamed,

The Afghan-Canadian businessman, along with his second wife and his eldest son, were the defendants in a sensational "honour killings" trial last year at Kingston's Frontenac County Courthouse.

Story continues below advertisement

Convicted in the murder of his first wife and three of his daughters, the family patriarch and his son were sent to the Kingston Penitentiary, five minutes away from the courthouse.

Helmuth Buxbaum

A former millionaire nursing-home owner sentenced to a life sentence for arranging his wife's murder. After being attacked by other inmates at Millhaven Institution, he was placed into protective custody in Kingston Penitentiary in 1987. He was transferred seven years later and died behind bars in 2007.

Guy Paul Morin

The wrongfully convicted also ended up in Kingston. Guy Paul Morin, who was tried twice for the 1984 killing of nine-year-old Christine Jessop, spent eight months in Kingston Penitentiary. He later thanked the judge who granted him bail for freeing him from "the nightmares of Kingston Penitentiary."

DNA evidence exonerated him in 1995.

Steven Truscott

Convicted at the age of 14 in 1959 in the murder of his 12-year-old schoolmate Lynne Harper, he spent a decade in prison before being released on parole. Journalist Ron Haggart, who was at the Kingston Penitentiary to cover a riot in 1971 spoke to guards about Mr. Truscott. "They all thought he was the nicest kid they had ever met. And they all believed he was innocent." His conviction was quashed in 2007.

The Great Escape

Bank robber Ty Conn was the last prisoner to escape from the Kingston Penitentiary when he scaled over the walls in May 1999, the first successful breakout in four decades.

The 32-year-old placed a dummy in his cell so his absence wouldn't be noticed. He hid in the prison shop that repaired Canada Post canvas bags then used a makeshift ladder to scale down the prison wall. Outside, he sprinkled cayenne pepper on the ground to thwart tracking dogs.

Two weeks later, on May 20, police surrounded him in a Toronto basement. He was on the phone with a friend when his shotgun blasted into his chest, either a suicide or an accidental shot.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at