Dellen Millard's uncle, Robert Burns, denied any intention of getting into the pet cremation business with his nephew when asked by the Crown prosecutor in a Hamilton court Thursday.
Burns was the first member of the Millard family to testify at the trial of Millard, 30, of Toronto, and Mark Smich, 28, of Oakville, Ont., who are accused of killing Tim Bosma, 32, who lived in the suburban Ancaster area of Hamilton. Both have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
- Flames seen at MillardAir hangar hours after Tim Bosma disappeared
- Gun likely fired inside Tim Bosma's truck
- 'Bloodletting event' happened inside truck, expert says
Bosma was last seen on May 6, 2013, after taking two men on a test drive of a pickup truck he was trying to sell. He was missing for more than a week before human remains were found in an animal incinerator on an Ayr, Ont., farm owned by Millard.
Images of that incinerator and the bones found inside have been shown to the jury over and over — yet court has never heard a theory as to exactly why the machine sold as "The Eliminator" was purchased.
In Superior Court on Thursday, Millard followed Burns's every step in the courtroom as his uncle made his way to the witness box.
Burns, a veterinarian who has a practice in Vaughan, Ont., stressed to the jury that "biologically" he is Millard's uncle.
Uncle describes 'distant' relationship
Millard's father, Wayne Millard, and his mother, Madeleine Burns, separated for a time, Burns testified, saying that for "altruistic reasons" he took care of the man now accused of murder "sporadically" from ages 15 to 17.
He classified their current relationship as "distant." Burns's testimony was interrupted on multiple occasions by defence objections, and the jury had to be excused for legal arguments twice.
Burns said he was "absolutely blown away" when he heard about a suggestion that he might have been planning a pet cremation business venture with his nephew.
He told the jury he never discussed pet cremation with Millard or "anyone in his entourage."
"Animals that are euthanized or die are held in a deep freeze for a relatively short period of time, at which point we call an outside third party company that picks up the cadavers and have those bodies cremated," he said.
Burns said the last time he spoke with Millard was over the phone at Easter time in 2013.
"The topic of purchase of an incinerator was never mentioned," Burns said.
He later testified: "I have never been to his hangar, nor have I ever been invited."
Burns was led out of the court by Hamilton police officers, who blocked anyone from taking photos of him.
On Thursday, the court also heard from John Alma, who described himself as a "semi-retired supervisor" at GA Masonry. He testified that he saw a truck towing a large black trailer coming from the MillardAir hangar at Waterloo International Airport on May 9, just days after Bosma vanished.
Alma said the truck did a U-turn before heading back to the hangar — something that was captured on security camera video recovered from the business that was shown in court Wednesday.
Two men got out of the truck and went back into the hangar, he testified. "They moved like young men," Alma said.
"They came out shortly afterwards with an orange tarp. They threw it in the trailer and took off again," Alma said.
Multiple tarps were found inside a trailer containing Bosma's truck that was located at the home of Millard's mother in Kleinburg, Ont.
When the court was shown a photo of the trailer that Bosma's truck was found in, Alma responded that it looked like the one he had seen near the hangar.
"At that time, I thought I seen two headlights [inside the trailer]," Alma said after reviewing the statement he made to police.
Employee spots Bosma truck
Court also heard on Thursday from Spencer Hussey, who worked for MillardAir until March 2013. Hussey testified that he saw a livestock incinerator on Millard's farm in February 2013 even though no animals were kept at the farm. He also said he saw Bosma's truck inside the MillardAir hangar in May of the same year.
Hussey said he met with Millard at the hangar on May 8 — two days after Bosma vanished.
"He looked tired," Hussey said. "He had bags under his eyes. His sweater was falling over his shoulder. His hair wasn't done any particular way," which was uncommon, he said.
Hussey also testified to seeing Smich at the hangar. He described Smich as "a rough looking individual" who would "wear the same clothes regularly."
"Eighty per cent of the time I had seen Dell, Mark would have been with him," he testified.
In cross-examination, Millard's lawyer Nadir Sachak listed all of the things of value within the hangar in an effort to illustrate Millard's financial wellbeing. The court had previously heard things were "getting tight" for MillardAir.
Sachak also talked about how Bosma's truck was out in the open at the hangar.
"Anyone who went into that hangar will see the Bosma truck," Sachak said, and Hussey agreed.
The trial continues on Monday, March 21.
CBC reporter Adam Carter is in the courtroom each day reporting live on the trial. You can view a recap of his live blog here: