Criminal Law

Timing of stomping noises 'important' to Oland defence: Hicks

Canadian PressTHE CANADIAN PRESS

SAINT JOHN — A man who worked in Richard Oland's small office building told police he heard five or six "loud stomps'' on the night the multi-millionaire was bludgeoned to death — but the timing would exclude Dennis Oland as a suspect in the killing.

More Saint John police officers have taken the stand as Dennis Oland's retrial for the second-degree murder of his father moved into its second week.

The officers questioned so far were all early responders on July 7, 2011, when Richard Oland's body was found lying in a pool of blood on the floor of his uptown Saint John office.

Const. Don Shannon, one of the first officers on the scene, told the court about the steps he followed in securing the building, searching the grounds and interviewing potential witnesses.

Shannon said he spoke to John Ainsworth and Anthony Shaw, who were working in the printing office directly below Richard Oland's second-floor office.

They said they were there from roughly 6 p.m. until 9:20 p.m. on July 6, 2011 — the night Oland was killed. Shannon recorded in his notes that "Mr. Shaw said he heard something at 8 p.m. when he heard five or six loud stomps coming from the second floor.''

Defence lawyer Michael Lacy pressed Shannon to confirm whether that was clearly what Shaw said to him. "Yes,'' the officer replied.

It is key information for the defence case, since Dennis Oland was caught on security video at around 7:40 p.m. shopping with his wife, Lisa, first at a pharmacy and then at a vegetable and fruit store in Rothesay, a bedroom community of Saint John.

Dennis had been alone with his father in the office from about 5:45 p.m. to a little after 6:30 p.m. He has always maintained his father was alive when he left.

Toronto criminal lawyer Christopher Hicks tells AdvocateDaily.com the timing of events is crucial to the defence.

“You can’t be in Rothesay shopping with your wife at 7:38 p.m. and be in Saint John committing a murder at 8. So that’s very important for the defence, if the officer’s notes were accurate, and that’s the whole point of the cross-examination."

Crown prosecutors contend Oland, an investment adviser who was deeply in debt, committed the murder when he was alone with his father "in a rage'' over money.

Prosecutor Jill Knee said that while both Ainsworth and Shaw said they heard thumping noises, they "did not note the time.'' Ainsworth said it could have been any time between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

But the defence has seized on the noises, especially Shaw's contention that they occurred around 8 p.m.

"You can be sure that Shaw and Ainsworth are going to be called as witnesses by either the prosecution or the defence," says Hicks, partner with Hicks Adams LLP. "That's why the defence was pressing Shannon to confirm the time Shaw gave him was 8 p.m.”

The defence is saying Saint John police did not give sufficient credence to these witness statements. Defence lawyers contend there was a rush to judgement by police who decided within hours of finding Richard Oland's body that he had been killed by his son.

Shannon also testified that he noticed a back door with an exit sign above it in the foyer, near the entrance to the Oland office.

He said he did not touch the closed door. This rear exit is an issue for defence lawyers who say it could have been the escape route for a killer or killers. They have faulted the police for not investigating it more closely.

Another officer on the stand, Const. Ben MacLeod, said that when he arrived to take over scene security late in the afternoon of July 7, the door was wide open.

"It was a warm evening,'' he said.

The defence created a video in 2014 illustrating how a person could use the rear exit to get away from the murder scene. It was shown at the trial despite objections from the Crown who pointed out the terrain could have changed in the years since the murder.

Oland, 50, was convicted of the second-degree murder in December, 2015, but the jury verdict was set aside on appeal and the new trial ordered. He has been free on bail since the appeal court decision.

Richard Oland was 69 at the time of his death. A well-known businessman in Saint John, he was a member of the prominent Maritime beer-brewing family and was a former executive with Moosehead Breweries Ltd.

He was struck more than 45 times, mostly on the head, with a weapon that was never identified or found.

The trial continues.

— with files from AdvocateDaily.com

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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