Affidavit in Oland homicide released

The affidavit of the lead investigator in the Richard Oland homicide investigation in New Brunswick has been made public, but the release of search warrants related to the case has been delayed for another couple of weeks.

Release of search warrants delayed

Saint John businessman Richard Oland was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011.

The affidavit of the lead investigator in the year-old Richard Oland homicide investigation in New Brunswick has been made public, with the exception of two words that appear three times in the 10-page document.

But the release of nine search warrants and other documents related to the investigation has been delayed for another couple of weeks, at the request of lawyers representing members of the Oland family who want more time to go over the documents and decide what they want to argue to have blacked out.

Chief Judge R. Leslie Jackson told provincial court that the amount of material currently approved for release is "voluminous."

There are at least nine search warrants, nine informations police filed with the court in order to obtain the search warrants, and about nine lists of items seized during those searches.

Richard Oland, a prominent Saint John businessman, was found dead in his uptown office July 7, 2011.

Police confirmed early on that the 69-year-old was the victim of a homicide and likely knew his killer, but more than a year later, have released few details about the case.

The affidavit by Saint John police force Const. Stephen Davidson was released Wednesday. It was filed with the court in support of the Crown's previous argument to keep search warrants sealed.

The document outlines delays investigators have faced in getting exhibits analyzed by the RCMP forensic lab.

Davidson said 378 exhibits have been seized to date. Of those, 243 require forensic analysis.

David Coles, who is representing CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal, says delays in getting forensic results is "a matter of public interest and public concern." (CBC)

Lab staff decide which exhibits to accept and no additional exhibits can be submitted until the results from the previously submitted exhibits are reported, he said.

So far, only 43 exhibits have been sent, with the most recent results received on June 26, according to Davidson's affidavit, dated July 6.

"It is difficult to determine how much longer this investigation will continue due to the potential results that will be received from evidence already gathered that has been analyzed or is currently being analyzed," Davidson states.

David Coles, a lawyer representing CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal in a bid to have the documents made public, calls the time delay in processing exhibits "a matter of public interest and public concern, not just obviously in this investigation, but in all investigations.

"I think that's an issue," he told reporters outside the courtroom. "That's a matter for the public to decide, but certainly that stands out as something that speaking personally I have concerns about."

In addition to gathering exhibits and sending them for analysis, police have interviewed 60 people, Davidson states in the affidavit.

"It is my belief that there may be as of yet unidentified witnesses who will have to be interviewed as the investigation continues as well as witnesses to be re-interviewed," he said.

The search warrants include the names of some of those individuals or information that could lead to their identification, which could "prejudice the interest of an innocent person," said Davidson.

"Private confidential and personal information has been given in this investigation," he said. In addition, the documents contain "expressed opinions of police officers as to the veracity of persons interviewed during the investigation," he said.

"It is my belief that given the high level of general public and media interest, witnesses already identified or possibly yet to be identified may be reluctant to come forward if they believe they may be identified publicly as a witness or have given information to the police."

Crown prosecutors and the Saint John police force has no objection to the affidavit being released.

Lawyers representing members of the Oland family have concerns about paragraph 41, but agreed it could also be made public with the exception of two words.

Search warrants remain sealed

The search warrants in question are related to several searches executed by Saint John police, including one at the home of Oland's son, Dennis, a nearby wooded area by the Bill McGuire Community Centre, as well as a sailboat co-owned by Dennis Oland's wife.

Search warrants are normally public documents and should only be sealed in "exceptional" circumstances, the media lawyer has said.

The Crown had been fighting to keep all of the search warrants and related documents sealed and presented evidence during a closed hearing Tuesday morning in a bid to convince the judge to extend the sealing order for another six months.

But then, in a surprise move Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors withdrew the application and argued instead to keep only some information secret.

Lawyers representing members of the Oland family requested an adjournment.

Gary Miller, who previously told CBC News he had been hired by Dennis Oland, told the court he needs more time to go through the documents to see what, if any, information he wants to argue to keep blacked out.

"Given the amount of material, it would be fundamentally unfair to force us to proceed this afternoon," he told the judge.

Miller said he and Bill Teed, who is also representing members of the Oland family, only received some of the documents from the Crown about 10 p.m. Tuesday night and two others early Wednesday morning.

Crown prosecutors went over the documents line by line until late Tuesday night, trying to decide what information could be released and what details should be withheld.

"It was a long day," the judge said.

Lawyers representing the Oland family will return to court on Aug. 13 to argue during a closed hearing to have additional information blacked out.

The remaining information will be released to CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal some time between Aug. 13 and 16. Lawyer David Coles will then argue on Aug. 16 to have additional information released.