Criminal Law

Officer had to order other cops away from Oland crime scene, trial hears

Canadian PressTHE CANADIAN PRESS

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — The battered body of multi-millionaire Richard Oland attracted unwanted attention from several Saint John police officers who visited the scene just to get a look, the Dennis Oland murder trial was told Friday.

"I sternly ordered them to get out of my crime scene,'' Sgt. Mark Smith said as he described finding two unauthorized officers near the body on the day it was discovered, July 7, 2011.

Smith was the officer in charge of collecting forensic evidence at the grisly murder scene in the uptown Saint John offices of Richard Oland, the 69-year-old businessman and former Moosehead Breweries Ltd. executive who was beaten to death on July 6, 2011.

Photos show Oland lying by his desk, his skull shattered by repeated blows from a weapon that was never found. There is a large pool of blood radiating around the upper half of the body.

Oland's only son, Dennis, 50, is on trial for second-degree murder. This is Oland's second trial — the jury conviction in his first trial in 2015 was set aside on appeal.

Prosecutors have told the court this was a "rage'' killing triggered by Dennis Oland's serious financial problems. The defence says Dennis, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, is the victim of a shoddy police investigation and a rush to judgement.

The two officers who drew Smith's ire were Inspector Glen McCloskey, later deputy chief of the Saint John police force and now retired, and Const. Greg Oram. It was McCloskey's second visit to the scene that day and he admitted during the first trial that he was there on the second occasion simply out of ''curiosity.''

McCloskey's conduct was the subject of an initial investigation by the New Brunswick Police Commission after another officer said the deputy chief wanted him to not tell the trial about his presence at the crime scene. However, a more detailed inquiry was derailed after McCloskey retired.

Smith said the two officers left when he ordered them out.

The defence is asking pointed questions of police officers testifying at the trial, suggesting there was a failure of due diligence in terms of preventing contamination of the crime scene, and a failure to properly examine such areas as a possible back door escape route and an office washroom.

“Those officers shouldn’t have been allowed in the scene. They can’t make any contribution to it. It’s just curiosity," Toronto criminal lawyer Christopher Hicks tells AdvocateDaily.com.

"Forensic officers know what they’re doing and they have to be trusted to do their job. They don’t need senior line officers coming and looking over their shoulders and possibly messing up the crime scene.”

Hicks, partner with Hicks Adams LLP, is not involved in the case and speaks generally. He says the more the defence can put the evidence gathering of Saint John police into question, the more it strengthens Oland's case.

"The thing is the defence is saying there are other killers, obviously. They are saying, ‘We didn’t do it. Somebody else killed Richard Oland,'" he says.

"In my view, they are going to say that there could have been real evidence that could have been destroyed here or not found.”

Smith was not cross-examined by defence lawyers on Friday. He will take the stand again later.

Two other police officers on the stand Friday, Const. Rob Carlisle and Const. Don Weber, described the work they did during the Oland investigation under questioning by Crown prosecutor P.J. Veniot.

Both were tasked with searching for possible evidence, including anything that could have been a murder weapon, and they also gathered video surveillance footage from nearby businesses.

Carlisle said he was told to look for video from an uptown pedway from July 6, 2011, especially showing any individuals wearing beige pants, about 5 feet 10 inches in height and wearing a dark blazer.

"There was no name mentioned,'' Carlisle told the court.

Dennis Oland was caught on camera on July 6, 2011, wearing beige pants and a brown jacket. He visited his father at the office late that day and is the last known person to have seen Richard Oland alive.

— with files from AdvocateDaily.com

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