Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid says his force is close to solving the homicide of high-profile businessman Richard Oland.
Reid said in an interview the police are closing in on Oland's killer.
"I think we're close, I think we're very close — and that's not a specific statement that we absolutely have something we could have a charge laid tomorrow, but we're very, very close," he said.
"We still have other things we have to — and I'm using these words — chase down. And it's important to do that. And we have some loose ends that we have to tie up and I think that we will be able to, at the end of the day, be able to present a very compelling case to the Crown."
It was just over a year ago that the prominent businessman was found slain in his uptown office.
Suspect in mind
Reid said they have a suspect, but declined to discuss any specifics.
"You follow the evidence and once we were following the evidence, you have a suspect or suspects in mind, but you start to narrow that down — so it’s not tunnel vision … and I think it’s no different than, if I can use the analogy of a camera and a lens — you’ve got a big, wide lens and as you’re following the evidence, you’re bringing it into focus," he said.
"And before you know it, if the evidence is there, and it is there, you will have the individual or individuals that were involved and that’s exactly where we’re at."
Investigators are busy working with experts, analyzing seized computer data and doing forensic audits of bank accounts "associated with the case," trying to determine a motive, Reid said.
"What we’re trying to establish — there has to be a pattern here and is there a motive and is the motive involved in a forensic analysis of documentation, money, all that stuff? Or is it on a computer and is it assisted by DNA?" he said.
"So there’s about three or four levels of analyzation that has to take place in the Oland case which has really protracted this case out longer than most cases."
Still, Reid argues taking a year to solve a homicide is not unusual.
"Quite frankly, if you do a cross-section of serious crimes or homicides across Canada, you’re going to see by and large most cases don’t get solved within the 24 hours or the 48 hours and there’s a lot of investigations that get solved, but they got solved over a longer period of time like a year, or two years," he said.
Earlier this month, a criminology professor at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, said it might be time to call in an outside force to help with the Oland investigation.
"Another police force, notably the RCMP, would bring a fresh perspective to the case and they might to able to see something in the evidence that the Saint John police have overlooked," Michael Boudreau had said.
'This is not a cold case and this is not a case that can't be solved by us.' —Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid
Reid said he disagrees with the professor's assessment.
"If there's any need for any assistance to solve a case — this is not bravado here, I will certainly call in any help. In fact, I have — we've got help on the forensics and the computer side. If we don't have the subject matter experts here I will go and find them," he said.
"If it was a cold case and you have a fresh set of eyes, that's fine, but this is not a cold case and this is not a case that can't be solved by us."
"It’s taken longer than maybe some people would like to see, but at the end of the day you get one kick at the can here and our people want to do a bang up job to make sure that when we present a case to the Crown and the Crown approves it, we have the best possible case," he said.
Reid could not speculate how much longer that will be. Investigators have to have the latitude to take as much time as it takes, he said.
"The case will be solved through a lot of hard work, footwork, analysis, asking the right questions, talking to people, undercover [work], pulling up the stones and looking underneath them, even traditional police work. It’s going to take all that stuff to come to a conclusion here and I’m very confident that’s going to happen."
Three officers are still actively assigned to the file, down from the original 15, Reid said.
The criminal investigations division only has about 25 officers and they have been stretched thin with other big cases, he said.
Those cases include the suspected homicide of a 22-year-old female psychiatric patient at the Saint John Regional Hospital in February, and the murder of a 31-year-old man who was gunned down near the Bacchus Motorcycle Club in the city’s south end on July 14.
"I can appreciate the fact that people are wondering when there will be a charge [in the Oland case]
, or if there will ever be a charge, do police have a suspect, a bona fide suspect, and things such as — do they have everything they need in terms of being able to investigate this case?" he said.
"There’s no question in my mind we have very competent investigators. They’ve done excellent work. I know what they’re doing, I’m briefed all the time and at the end of the day, I’m very confident that we will present a case to the Crown and ultimately we’ll be before a judge, or a judge and jury to present that case. So I’m very comfortable with that."