NEWS

Richard Oland Murder: A Year Later, Beer Mogul's Death Remains Shrouded In Mystery

07/06/2012 12:33 EDT | Updated 09/05/2012 05:12 EDT
A year after Richard Oland was found dead in his Saint John office, details of the investigation into the prominent New Brunswick businessman's homicide remain shrouded in mystery.

Police have released virtually no updates on their progress since his body was found on July 7 last year, and they have gone to extra lengths to keep the case under wraps by challenging the release of search warrants in court.

Now, a criminology professor at St. Thomas University in Fredericton says it may be time to get an outside police force to help with the investigation.

"Saint John does not have a lot of murders, which is a good thing, but it may also speak to the fact that perhaps the police force isn't up to solving a murder," Michael Boudreau said in an interview.

"It shouldn't matter who the victim is, a murder is a murder, and if they're not up to that, then maybe it's time to bring in another police force and have a fresh set of eyes look at this information."

Oland, 69, was a member of the Oland beer-making family — owners of Moosehead Breweries — although he was no longer involved in the business.

Police have called his death a homicide but have not said how he died or released any other information about their investigation.

They did say that investigators believed Oland knew the person responsible for his death, which was not part of a robbery or a random act.

Police executed a number of search warrants in the weeks following Oland's death but those documents were sealed by a judge in December following a hearing in which he heard from a city police officer behind closed doors.

That original sealing order expired last month.

At the time, Crown attorney John Henheffer argued in court that the release of the documents could jeopardize the ongoing police investigation.

He told provincial court Judge Leslie Jackson that the case was still being "actively investigated."

Lawyer David Coles, who represents media organizations opposed to the extension, said the Crown hadn't produced any evidence to support the request.

Jackson decided the sealing order would remain in place until a full hearing, which is set for July 31 when the judge will hear from the lawyers and a Saint John police officer. The court will not be open to the public or media.

Boudreau said that information will eventually have to be released.

"They have probably a legitimate concern that it would jeopardize the investigation, however, after awhile — and some may argue that point has already been passed — they're going to have to divulge that information," he said.

Boudreau said a year is a long time for a case to remain unsolved, and police run the risk of having the trail get cold.

"Statistics do show that the longer a homicide goes unsolved the more difficult it becomes to ever lay a charge," he said.

"Even if a charge is now laid, and witnesses are to be called, it's a year later ... and it raises many questions about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony."

Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid was away and unavailable for comment.

But in an interview in March, Reid said the force was still waiting for lab results at that time on items investigators had seized.

"They have to be processed, and then they have to be analyzed," he said. "That takes a long, long time. We have to be patient with the work that third parties are doing on our behalf."

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton said it's an issue that politicians should leave to the experts but he believes the chief would ask for outside help if it was necessary.

"I suspect that he would get the full support of the police commission, and of the city generally, for anything he thinks he needs for this investigation," Norton said.

Still, Boudreau said the police need to say something soon to show some progress in the investigation.

"The longer this goes, the worse it looks for them, the worse it looks for the city, and the harder this ordeal becomes for the family," Boudreau said.

Oland's family issued a statement on Thursday as the first anniversary of his death approached that thanked people for their support, adding that they would not be making any further comment.

“It has been a difficult year as we come to terms with the loss of our husband, father and friend, Richard Oland," it said.