POLITICS

New Brunswick businessman Richard Oland was murdered, search warrants reveal

08/16/2012 09:50 EDT | Updated 10/16/2012 05:12 EDT
SAINT JOHN, N.B. - Police investigating the death of Richard Oland believe the prominent New Brunswick businessman was murdered, according to search warrants released Thursday that also provide some details on the forensic evidence taken from his body.

Heavily censored portions of seven search warrants and related documents in the Oland case were released after the CBC and New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal asked the provincial court in Saint John to make them public.

The Crown had initially argued that all of the search warrants and related documents should remain sealed because they contained evidence that only the person or persons responsible for Oland's death would know.

The documents released Thursday repeatedly say investigators believe that on July 6, 2011, a person or persons "did commit murder on the person of Richard Henry Oland."

Up to this point, the Saint John police have only said that Oland's death was a homicide, which doesn't necessarily mean he was intentionally slain, and that he knew his killer.

The 69-year-old was found dead in his downtown Saint John office on July 7, 2011. Nobody has been charged in the case.

The search warrants say Sgt. Mark Smith, a Saint John police expert in blood stain patterns, was among those at the scene taking samples and collecting evidence on the day Oland's body was found.

Smith and another officer also collected "DNA, toxicology samples, swabbings, nail clippings, hair and fibre samples as well as other trace evidence," from Oland's body at the hospital morgue, the documents say.

Documents say searches were carried out in Oland's office, his 2009 BMW and at a 29,880-square metre property at 58 Gondola Point Rd. in the Saint John suburb of Rothesay.

The identity of the home's owner and the rationale for the July 14, 2011, search is blacked out. But media reports citing property records say the home belongs to Richard Oland's son, Dennis.

A separate appendix says police seized 57 items including legal papers, bank statements, garbage bags, bedding, clothing, a purple purse and a "note in a purse" from the property.

Dennis Oland did not return a message Thursday. Gary Miller, his lawyer, declined comment as he left the court.

Another document says police searched a 7.6-metre yacht named Loki, which was docked at the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club in Saint John. The name of the boat's owner is redacted, but the record says "genealogy papers/books/documents" were sought.

A corresponding appendix says the Crown kept DNA swabs that were taken of ignition keys, gas cans, cabin doors, sinks, scrub brushes and other parts of the boat.

The records also reveal that police asked a CIBC bank at 44 King St. in Saint John, about 100 metres away from the scene of Oland's slaying, to provide certified copies of bank documents. They say the CIBC was asked for Richard Oland's banking records, but the reasons for the request are blanked out.

There is also a document that says video evidence exists in the case.

"The footage shows (redacted) on Canterbury Street in the direction of 52 Canterbury Street," says the record.

Bill Teed, the lawyer for other members of the Oland family, also declined comment outside court.

The documents were largely blacked out to protect an innocent party and the privacy of a third party, as well as prevent the release of "hallmark evidence" and information that would compromise the investigation, the records say.

Judge R. Leslie Jackson told the court that two more search warrants and corresponding documents are still being examined by lawyers.

The Crown had originally argued to keep the search warrants sealed almost a year after the investigation started. But two weeks ago, the Crown dropped that application.

David Coles, the lawyer representing the CBC and Telegraph-Journal, will be in court Friday to argue for the release of information that has been redacted.

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.