Douglas Garland Trial: Court Shown Aerial Photos Of Bodies Near Burn Barrel

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Warning: This article contains graphic testimony

CALGARY — There were tears in a Calgary courtroom Monday as the jury in a triple murder trial was shown aerial photos of three bodies laying near a burning barrel at the home of the suspect in the case.

Some jurors were visibly shocked by the images taken by an aerial photographer on July 1, 2014, which showed the bodies of two adults and a child from a distance. Members of the victim's families clung to each other for support in the public gallery.

The bodies of the two adults appeared naked except for some white material, which the Crown indicated in its opening statement were adult diapers. The body of the child was much less clear because of its size.

Justice David Gates immediately ordered a break after the images were shown.


"As I said to you at the beginning of the trial, some of this is difficult,'' Gates said.

Douglas Garland, 57, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O'Brien on June 30, 2014.

Photographer Paul Gagnon took the stand Monday and testified how he just happened to be over the Garland property taking survey photos when he captured the images of the bodies.

The survey planes, he said, are equipped with $1.5-million cameras, which take pictures every three seconds.

The bodies were lying in the grass next to a burning barrel that was giving off smoke.

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Alvin Liknes (left), Nathan O'Brien (centre) and Kathy Liknes (right.) (Photo: Calgary Police Service)

"Each pixel that you see represents 10 centimetres on the ground. If I were to measure that body there you'll see total length of 1.9 metres,'' said Gagnon. "The other figure is approximately 1.7 metres."

Gagnon said the size of the child's body was more difficult to determine, but he put it at about 70 centimetres.

The photographer said another photo of the Garland farm was taken about 26 hours later on July 2.

The bodies were gone.


Garland, who has shown little emotion throughout the trial, was hunched over in the prisoner's box, closely watching a video screen of the evidence and taking notes.

The Crown alleges Garland killed the Likneses because of a long-standing grudge he had with Alvin over a patent on a pump for the oil and gas industry. Nathan happened to be at his grandparents' house for a sleepover on the night they disappeared.

On Tuesday, the court was told an overwhelming amount of DNA evidence was found by forensic investigators at the Garland family farm.

RCMP forensic expert Vivian Mohrbutter testified Tuesday that there was DNA evidence from the adults and the child was found on a pair of rubber boots at the rural property near Airdrie.

DNA matched to hacksaw, handcuffs, knife

Mohrbutter said a large hacksaw stored in one of the buildings contained DNA from two of the victims.

"It matched that of a ... sample from Nathan O'Brien. The estimated probability of selecting another individual at random from the Canadian Caucasian population with the same profile is one in 130 billion.''

She said evidence found on another part of the hacksaw as well as on two blades matched Alvin Liknes and the probability of a random match was one in 160 billion.

The bodies of the three have not been recovered — only blood, teeth and bone.

DNA profiles were obtained from a toothbrush belonging to Kathy Liknes, a razor belonging to Alvin Liknes and Nathan's hockey mask.

Mohrbutter said a DNA sample from Garland matched DNA on a number of items found at the farm including handcuffs, a leather baton and a hunting knife.


The forensic expert said DNA can be affected by heat and chemicals, which can break down the bonds and fragment the DNA into smaller and smaller pieces.

"If those types of chemicals are present, they can inhibit our ability to obtain DNA from an exhibit."

Court has already heard that a hard drive found on the Garland property had photos of men and women restrained while wearing diapers. A search of a trailer in the yard found a mix of men's and women's clothing, as well as a bag full of adult diapers which appeared to be from a Calgary hospital.

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Calgary police search an acreage near Airdrie in July 2014. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

A police officer also testified Monday that video surveillance showed a vehicle and a shadowy figure on the street near the Liknes home.

Const. Gerald Bouchard said he gathered and personally reviewed up to 60 videos retrieved from businesses and homes in the Calgary neighbourhood where the Likneses lived. One nearby residence had six cameras.

douglas garland
Douglas Garland is escorted into a Calgary police station in connection with the disappearance on July 14, 2014. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

He said he identified an older-model, dark-coloured Ford truck in early footage and was later asked to concentrate on a green Ford F-150 pickup similar to a vehicle driven by Garland.

Bouchard said there was footage of a similar truck driving on the street near the Liknes home about 3:15 a.m. the day they were reported missing.

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