POLITICS

Investigator disagrees with chief that arrest soon in Oland slaying, court hears

08/17/2012 12:19 EDT | Updated 10/17/2012 05:12 EDT
SAINT JOHN, N.B. - A police officer involved in the year-old investigation into Richard Oland's death gave a less optimistic opinion than his chief Friday on the prospect of quickly wrapping up the high-profile murder probe.

Const. Stephen Davidson of the Saint John police was testifying during court hearings on whether censored portions of search warrants in the New Brunswick businessman's death should be made public.

A lawyer for the CBC and New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, who have applied for the warrants to be unsealed, asked Davidson whether he agreed with comments made last month by Saint John police Chief Bill Reid that an arrest was expected soon.

"Would you agree with the chief that you believe as part of the investigation team that in a short period of time there would be an arrest?" David Coles asked.

"I wouldn't say it's a short period of time," Davidson replied. "Evidence is continuing to come in and it has to be assessed at that time, given the evidence."

Reid is on vacation and was unavailable for comment Friday, a spokesman for the Saint John police said.

Davidson also testified that police are only considering one suspect. Coles then asked if he remains confident investigators have the "right person in mind."

"Yes," Davidson told provincial court.

Coles later said outside court that he was trying to establish that if the police work is mostly completed, then there's little reason to keep all nine search warrants completely sealed.

Portions of seven search warrants were released Thursday that show that police believe Oland, 69, was murdered. Up until this point, they have only classified his death as a homicide, which doesn't necessarily mean he was intentionally slain. Nobody has been charged in the case.

Most of Friday's proceedings were held behind closed doors as Coles made his arguments to release more information from the documents.

He said the Supreme Court of Canada has established that the Crown must provide clear evidence why search warrants shouldn't be made public after they've been executed.

"There's a legitimate public interest in maintaining transparency in the system," he said. "That's how we police the police."

Neither the Crown nor the lawyers for the Oland family would comment outside court.

The Crown has argued against releasing further information from the search warrants, saying doing so would reveal "hallmark evidence" that is key to the investigation and known only to specific witnesses.

Judge R. Leslie Jackson said he would deliver a written ruling by Sept. 28 on whether more information should be released from the search warrants.

The documents that have been released so far are largely redacted. But they show that police seized 57 items from a home in the Saint John suburb of Rothesay that property records say is owned by Dennis Oland, Richard's son. Those items include legal papers, bank statements, garbage bags, bedding, clothing, a purple purse and a "note in a purse."

The records also reveal that 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 blacked out, but the record says "genealogy papers/books/documents" were sought.

The Crown kept DNA swabs that were taken of ignition keys, gas cans, cabin doors, sinks, scrub brushes, a red stain on the sink and other parts of the boat, the documents say.

Oland's body was found in his downtown Saint John office on July 7, 2011.

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.