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Several potential leads not pursued after Oland murder, investigator admits


SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Several potential leads that were not pursued by police investigating Richard Oland's murder have been raised by the defence at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial.

Defence lawyer Alan Gold cross-examined Const. Stephen Davidson, lead investigator of the murder for the Saint John police, on Thursday and asked him why police did not do more to question possible witnesses and look into curious occurrences.

One of those odd developments was the discovery a few weeks after the July 6, 2011, murder of multi-millionaire Richard Oland of a bunch of sticky notes with names written on them of Oland family members, past and present. The notes were found on the ground by a passer-by in west Saint John, far from the crime scene, and turned over to police.

Names scribbled on the notes included Dick, Derek, Philip and Susan, the word "alcoholic" and "1800s." Susannah Oland, who lived in the 19th century, was the creator of the original beer recipe that formed the basis of the Oland family's Moosehead Brewery.

Gold wanted to know if the papers had been fingerprinted, or if a piece of material that appeared to be a hair stuck on one of the notes had been examined. But Davidson said nothing was done with the papers.

"There was no follow up to these pieces of paper?" Gold asked.

"Correct," Davidson said.

Police also did not check on a report by a woman who said she heard shouting in the area of the crime scene on the night of the murder. As well, Gerry Lowe, a member of the New Brunswick legislature, was sitting in a restaurant near the crime scene and said he saw a man leave the building at around 7:30 p.m. But Lowe was not sure if he saw the man on the night of the murder or the day before.

Davidson said police did not investigate to see if Lowe had been at the restaurant the day before the killing.

Oland's defence team is arguing at trial that the Saint John police investigation was inadequate. Almost every police officer who has been on the stand during the trial's first two weeks has been asked pointed questions about weaknesses in procedures and problems in protecting the crime scene.

The Oland trial adjourned on Thursday until Jan. 7, 2019. It is expected to last until March.

Two witnesses who likely heard Richard Oland being beaten to death in his Saint John office initially told police they heard loud thumping noises at around 8 p.m., a time that would exclude Dennis Oland as the killer.

On Thursday, Gold examined Davidson's notes from July 7, 2011, the day Oland's battered body was found lying in a pool of blood on the floor of his office.

Davidson, a young police officer at the time who was new to the major crimes unit, interviewed John Ainsworth and Anthony Shaw. The two men had been working together in the Printing Plus office on the ground floor of the building on July 6.

Oland's office was on the second floor.

Davidson's notes from Ainsworth state: "8 p.m. Stomping 5 - 6 times on the floor." From Shaw, his notes report: "8ish, thumping on floor. Loud thumping. Did not check but mildly alarmed. Unusual for 8ish."

Gold asked Davidson if Ainsworth, who owns the office building, indicated his 8 p.m. comment was a "guesstimate."

"No, he did not," Davidson said.

Shaw tied the time of the sounds to a visit from a customer who wanted to send a fax. The fax was time-stamped 8:11 p.m.

The police were never able to locate the person who sent the fax.

The time element is critical. Dennis Oland was alone with his father in the office from about 5:45 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on July 6. He then headed back to his home in nearby Rothesay and between 7:30 and 8 p.m. he was captured on surveillance cameras shopping with his wife Lisa.

However, the prosecution contends that since neither man made a note of the time when they heard the noises, it's uncertain when they actually occurred. Ainsworth later modified his recollection to hearing the noises sometime between 6 and 8 p.m. That opened the door to Oland being the killer.

Ainsworth and Shaw have yet to testify at the Oland retrial.

Oland's 2015 conviction by a jury for the second-degree murder was overturned on appeal and the new trial ordered. This time, the trial is before judge alone.

Oland, 50, has always maintained his innocence.

Chris Morris, The Canadian Press

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