POLITICS

Police contend with delays in Richard Oland homicide investigation: affidavit

08/01/2012 12:31 EDT | Updated 10/01/2012 05:12 EDT
SAINT JOHN, N.B. - Police investigating Richard Oland's death have been contending with delays from RCMP forensic laboratories in the year since the prominent New Brunswick businessman was found slain in his downtown Saint John office, an affidavit released Wednesday reveals.

The document was made public after a hearing was held in provincial court to determine whether search warrants and supporting documents in the investigation should remain sealed.

In the affidavit, Saint John police Const. Stephen Davidson offers a glimpse into the progress investigators have made and the hurdles they have encountered along the way.

Davidson, the lead investigator in the Oland case, says 378 exhibits have been seized, 243 of which require forensic analysis. As of the end of June, 43 items have been analyzed by the RCMP labs while others have yet to be sent.

On two occasions, there were delays in testing because forensic experts fell ill, Davidson says in the affidavit.

"It is my belief that the Saint John Police Force investigators have been diligently pursuing this aspect of the investigation and the amount of time awaiting responses is outside of our control," Davidson says.

"No further exhibits may be submitted until such time as previous results are reported. Further submissions are not given any priority."

Such delays are a concern shared by David Coles, a lawyer for the CBC and New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. The two news organizations are seeking full release of the search warrants and supporting documents.

"The time delay of processing exhibits is certainly a matter of public interest and public concern, not just in this investigation but in all investigations," he said outside the court.

The affidavit does not disclose what exhibits have been seized.

Davidson also argues in the affidavit against the release of search warrants and supporting documents, saying that could jeopardize the investigation. He said the search warrants contain crucial evidence that may only be known by the suspect or a witness.

"It is my belief such hallmark evidence is the basis upon which crimes are solved," Davidson says.

"The release of such hallmark evidence would potentially affect the reliability of any witness who might come forward in the future."

Davidson also says police have conducted 60 interviews with people who are identified in the search warrants and other documents. He says he's concerned if those names are released, people may be reluctant to speak with the police in the future.

On Tuesday, Crown lawyer John Henheffer withdrew his request to keep all of the documents sealed, and instead asked provincial court Judge R. Leslie Jackson to determine which information could be released.

Lawyers for the Oland family were given redacted documents Wednesday but said they needed more time to review them and consult their clients. Jackson adjourned the matter to Aug. 13, at which point those documents may be released. That hearing is closed to the public.

Another hearing will be held Aug. 16, when Coles is expected to argue for the release of some or all of the redacted information.

"Part of the struggle has been to balance the interests of the public's right to know and to protect the integrity of the investigation," he said.

"How do you argue that, and how do you present the evidence?"

Police have concluded that the 69-year-old Oland's death was a homicide and he likely knew the suspect, but they have not said how he was killed.

Oland was a member of the family that owns Moosehead Breweries Ltd., but left the company in 1981. He also worked in the trucking business, at the Saint John Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., and as a director for several firms, including Eastern Provincial Airways, Newfoundland Capital Corp. and Ganong Bros.

He also served as president of the board of the 1985 Canada Summer Games in Saint John, and was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 1998.

The Oland family can trace its brewing roots to 1867, when John and Susannah Oland started the Army and Navy Brewery in what was then Dartmouth. The company was later sold, but the family returned to the business, eventually setting up the Maritime Brewing and Malting Co. in the port city.

After the Halifax Explosion destroyed the family's plant in 1917, George Oland — Richard's grandfather — moved to New Brunswick, where he bought another brewery.