Saint John police believe prominent businessman Richard Oland was murdered, according to search warrant documents related to the investigation.
Seven of nine search warrants and several other related documents in the year-old case were made public on Thursday, but they are heavily redacted by order of Provincial Court Chief Judge R. Leslie Jackson.
Up until now, police have only referred to Oland’s death last summer as a homicide — an umbrella term that includes the lesser offence of manslaughter, which is not premeditated.
- First-degree murder is both planned and deliberate, or committed during the commission of another offence, such as sexual assault, kidnapping, or forcible confinement.
- Second-degree murder is a catchall category for all intentional killings that don’t fall under the specifics of first-degree.
- Manslaughter is any killing that occurs without the intent to kill.
Anyone found guilty of first- or second-degree murder faces an automatic life sentence, with no chance of parole for 25 years and 10 years respectively.
Oland, 69, was found dead in his uptown office on July 7, 2011.
The remaining two warrants related to a "log book" and are expected to be released tomorrow.
CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal will argue in provincial court on Friday to have additional details released.
The released documents reveal police believe he was killed on July 6. That’s the last day Oland was seen alive, and a day he had a scheduled appointment at his Canterbury Street office with someone whose name has been blacked out.
The documents do not mention the cause of death, whether any weapons were involved or name any suspects.
Those details could be among the extensive information blacked out.
Among the information that was withheld by the court at the request of the Crown and two lawyers who are representing members of the Oland family are lists of items police were looking for and lists of items seized, names of people Oland was seen with on the day he died, and descriptions of Oland by some of the people police have interviewed.
The court gave four reasons for redacting the information:
- It is considered "hallmark" evidence.
- It could compromise the investigation if disclosed.
- It had to be redacted to protect the interest of an innocent party.
- It was removed to protect the privacy of a third party.
The documents are so heavily redacted that many paragraphs contain only a word or two.
For example, one section reads: "Sgt. Brooker was advised by[words redacted]. [Words redacted] told Sgt. David Brooker that they are [words redacted]. [Words redacted] told Sgt. David Brooker that they did [words redacted]. He asked about the [words redacted]. He was advised [words redacted]. In conclusion, [words redacted]."
The documents relate to searches police conducted at the home of Oland’s only son, Dennis Oland, on July 14; a car owned by an unnamed person the same day; a sailboat co-owned by Dennis’ wife, on July 21; and the CIBC on King Street, where Oland "primarily" did his operational banking.
No arrests, charges in death
There have been no arrests and no charges in relation to Oland’s death.
CBC News and the Telegraph-Journal have been seeking to have the documents made public since December.
David Coles, a Halifax-based lawyer who is representing the CBC and the Telegraph-Journal, is expected to return to court on Friday to argue to have more of the censored information released.
Warrants are normally public and should only be sealed in "extraordinary" cases, Coles said.
The Crown had been fighting to keep all of the search warrants and related documents sealed, but in a surprise move on July 31, prosecutors withdrew the application and sought instead to keep only some information secret.
The documents released Thursday reveal police wanted to search the home of Oland’s son, Dennis, for genealogy papers, books or documents; four other items that have been blacked out; and "any other items relating to this offence."
Officers were given three days to conduct the search at 58 Gondola Point Rd., in Rothesay.
The property is nearly three hectares and includes a large house, horse stables, a large garage, several small outbuildings, as well as a large pasture horse riding ring and wooded areas, the documents state.
Police seized 57 items from the property, according to the documents.
378 items seized in investigation
A total of 378 pieces of evidence have been seized to date, according to a previously-released affidavit of one of the lead investigators in the case.
Police also searched a car on July 14. Although no details about the car, its owner or location are revealed, some "documents, business cards and receipts located in the side door pockets, centre console and glove compartment" were seized, the documents state.
The trunk of the car is also mentioned, but the remainder of that section is blacked out.
Police wanted to search the sailboat co-owned by Dennis Oland’s wife, Lisa Oland, for genealogy papers, books or documents; three other items that have been redacted; "and any other items relating to this offence."
A second search warrant related to the boat, which was requested the same day, shows investigators wanted to "forensically examine, swab, record, log, or duplicate, photograph, measure and seize items and any other forensic investigative procedure necessary in order to examine…," the redacted documents state.
The 25-foot boat, called Loki, was docked at the Kennebeccasis Yacht Club on Millidge Avenue, in Saint John’s north end. Divers combed the murky waters as club members looked on. What they were looking for remains unclear.
At the CIBC, police were looking for "true certified copies" of documents, the nature of which have been blacked out.
The released documents also reveal that Sgt. Mark Smith, a member of the identification unit, who is considered an expert in blood stain patterns, was called in to process Oland’s office the morning of July 7, taking photographs and gathering evidence.
On July 8, police forensically processed Oland’s body and gathered numerous exhibits, including blood for a DNA standard, toxicology samples, swabbings, nail clippings, hair and fiber samples, as well as other trace evidence.
Something was also removed during the procedure and then re-examined using a forensic light source known as a CrimeScope, the documents state.
On July 9, Smith and several other officers returned to Oland's office where a search was conducted.
Only July 12, Smith returned again with someone else, whose name has been blacked out.
"During the course of their examination of the scene, they also used photographs taken by St. Mark Smith on July 7, depicting the body of Richard Oland prior to its removal," the documents state.
"It is their expert opinion, after examination of the scene and photographs of the body, that…" it says, with the rest of the sentence blacked out.
Police also searched Oland’s car, a 2009 green BMW 750 LI, which was located in a parking lot on Canterbury Street.
They also went through his cell phone records and seized one of his belongings, which was blacked out.
Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid has previously said Oland’s computer data was among the items seized.
The documents also reveal the existence of "footage" of something that's been blacked out "on Canterbury Street in the direction of 52 Canterbury St."
Oland’s body was discovered on July 7 by someone who entered his second-storey office about 8:45 a.m., according to the documents.
Someone who was downstairs, where the Printing Plus store is located, was asked to go up, saw a body and "immediately" called 911 at 8:54 a.m.
Oland was pronounced dead by paramedics at 9 a.m. and was later identified.
His body was transferred to the Saint John Regional Hospital and locked in a small cooler at the morgue.