Douglas Garland had book on how to dispose of dead bodies, triple-murder trial hears

On the same day triple murder suspect Douglas Garland was arrested and photographed with injuries covering his body, officers were scouring the farm where he lived.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details and an image that may be disturbing to some readers

A photo collage shows bruises on Douglas Garland's head and face, hand and knee, as photographed by Calgary police after his arrest. (Court exhibit)

On the same day triple-murder suspect Douglas Garland was arrested and photographed with injuries covering his body, officers were scouring the farm where he lived and seizing a number of items prosecutors would later introduce as evidence.

Jurors were shown photos of Garland's injuries taken by Const. David Blackwood on July 5, 2014, six days after the disappearance of Nathan O'Brien, 5, and his grandparents, Alvin Liknes, 66, and Kathy Liknes, 53, whose bodies have never been found.

Garland is being tried in Court of Queen's Bench in Calgary on three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the Liknes family members, who were last seen the night of June 29, 2014, when Nathan was having an impromptu sleepover at his grandparents' home.

On the same day as the arrest, dozens of officers led by Const. Ian Oxton descended on the farm where Garland, 56, lived with his parents and seized items the prosecution says are key pieces of evidence in the trial.

Items found in the Garland basement:

  • Book - Be Your Own Undertaker: How to Dispose of a Dead Body.
  • Book - Silent Death.
  • Computer hard drive hidden in rafters.
  • Whips.
  • Straitjacket.
  • 36 tubes of dental anesthetic. 
  • VHS tape dated 2014/07/07 and titled 'News, unsolved homicides."
  • Tyvek suit almost identical to ones used by forensic examiners plus booties and facemasks. 
  • 8 pairs of women's shoes, size 13.
  • 2 blonde women's wigs.
  • Adult diaper + eBay receipt.

About 1,400 exhibits were seized as part of Operation Amber from the Liknes home, the Garland farm and the green truck driven by the accused.

Calgary police said that is the largest number of exhibits collected for a court case.

Earlier on Tuesday, Oxton testified about other evidence collected from the Garland property — where the Crown alleges the accused disposed of the bodies — including from outbuildings. 

Among the items seized from the outbuildings and property: 

  • Several daggers.
  • Two small items that appeared to be burnt flesh.
  • Two meat hooks.
  • Tazer cartridges.
  • Firearms parts including magazines, a holster, spent cartridges, silencers. 
  • Two boxes of leather and cotton restraints.
  • Metal ankle restraints.
  • About a dozen sets of handcuffs.
  • A box full of locks that had been cut, sheared and tampered with.
  • Lock-picking equipment.

Earlier in the trial, prosecutors told jurors DNA from the missing family members were found on a saw and the two meat hooks found on the property.

The exhibits collected by Oxten were sent to labs for further testing. Other witnesses will give evidence about DNA results later in the trial.

Garland was charged with murder on July 15, 2014, after a massive two-week search launched on June 30, when Jennifer O'Brien arrived at her parents' home to pick up her son to find all three missing and bloodstains throughout the house.

Garland is connected to the Liknes family through his sister, Patti Garland, who was in a common-law relationship with Alvin Liknes's son, Allen.

Patti Garland, her parents and Allen Liknes all testified earlier in the trial that Garland harboured a grudge against Alvin Liknes after a business relationship soured years earlier.

Nathan O'Brien, 5, had been sleeping over at the home of his grandparents — Kathy Liknes, 53, and Alvin Liknes, 66 — in June 2014 when the three disappeared. (Calgary Police Service)

DNA on farm

Inside the Liknes home, bloody footprints matched the shape and size of a pair of shoes missing from Douglas Garland's home, an expert testified last week.

On Monday, jurors heard evidence that a Calgary police cadaver dog gave signals he was onto the scent of human remains in several locations on the farm where Garland lived.

When RCMP officers were dispatched to the farm on July 5, after Garland became a person of interest in the investigation, a burn barrel was still smouldering on the property.

Bits of bone and a small tooth were found in the ashes.

Through what prosecutors Faulkner and Shane Parker have described as "dumb luck," a mapping plane that flew over the Garland property on July 1 and 2, 2014, took photographs that show what the Crown believes to be three bodies in the grass of two adults and a child.

Those photos have not yet been presented as evidence to jurors.

Lawyers Kim Ross and Jim Lutz are representing Garland and have not yet had the chance to cross-examine Oxton. 

The trial is scheduled to last five weeks.

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