New Brunswick

Dennis Oland was under surveillance for week after murder, trial hears

Dennis Oland was under police surveillance for a week after Richard Oland's bludgeoned body was discovered, his murder trial heard on Wednesday.

Investigation into 2011 slaying of father, Richard Oland, continued up until a few months ago

Dennis Oland, 47, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland. (CBC)

Dennis Oland was under police surveillance for a week after Richard Oland's bludgeoned body was discovered, his murder trial heard on Wednesday.

Saint John Police Force Staff Sgt. Dave Brooker, who was the sergeant in charge of the major crime unit at the time, testified the surveillance started as soon as Dennis Oland left the police station on July 7, 2011, around 11 p.m.

Earlier in the trial, the court heard Oland voluntarily gave police a statement that night. He was initially considered a witness — someone who might have information that could assist with the investigation. But by the end of the 2½-hour interview, he was deemed a suspect.

​Richard Oland's body was found lying face down in a pool of blood in his investment firm office on the morning of July 7.

The 69-year-old prominent businessman had suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands.

Staff Sgt. Dave Brooker was in charge of the major crime unit in 2011, when Richard Oland's bludgeoned body was discovered. (CBC)
Dennis Oland, 47, who was the last known person to see his father alive during a meeting at his Canterbury Street office the night before, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

Brooker said he wasn't involved in conducting the surveillance of Oland; it was handled by the street crime unit.

He was able to confirm, however, that the surveillance continued until July 14, 2011, when police executed search warrants at Oland's home on Gondola Point Road in Rothesay.

Oland was also under surveillance for four days in October, 2013, to establish his daily routine, the court heard. About a month later, he was arrested and charged.

Investigation extended into 2015

Police continued to investigate the 2011 slaying right up until a few months ago, Const. Shawn Coughlan revealed.

Coughlan testified he was assigned on Feb. 2, 2015, to obtain a "cast-off" DNA sample from the victim's brother, Derek Oland, who is the executive chairman of Moosehead Breweries Limited.

The patrol officer was also previously tasked with obtaining "cast-off" DNA from Richard Oland's business associate, Bob McFadden, and Scott Laskey, who served as one of the pallbearers at the victim's funeral, according to the obituary.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Coughlan was not asked why police wanted DNA samples from the three men, or why they sought to obtain them surreptitiously.

Earlier this month, Derek Oland told CBC News he was never asked to provide a sample.

"I was not asked for and did not refuse to provide a DNA sample to the Saint John Police Force," he stated in an email.

"I was, and still am, willing to help with the investigation into my brother's death in any way possible."

Coughlan said he and another officer spent nine days tracking Derek Oland around the west side brewery and his home in the Lepreau area — Feb. 2, 3, 4, March 17, 18, 19, 20, 25 and 27.

He was unsuccessful, he said, as Derek Oland looked on from the courtroom gallery.

Earlier in the trial, the court heard a sample was subsequently obtained from a fork and drinking glass seized from the Bourbon Quarter restaurant in Saint John.

Const. Shawn Coughlan says he spent four days following Dennis Oland in October 2013, to establish his daily routine. (CBC)
Coughlan said he was asked on Dec. 3, 2012, to obtain a "cast-off" DNA sample from Bob McFadden.

He was provided with a photograph of McFadden, his home and work addresses, and a list of vehicles he would have access to, he said.

On Dec. 29, Coughlan drove past McFadden's Rothesay home and noticed tire tracks in the freshly-fallen snow. He followed the tracks, caught up with one of the listed vehicles and followed it to East Side Mario's on Saint John's east side, he said.

Coughlan sat at a booth, about eight feet from where McFadden and a woman were sitting, watched and waited until they left, then seized a straw McFadden had used.

About a week later, on Jan. 7, 2013, he was asked to obtain a similar sample from Scott Laskey. He worked on the task by himself on Jan. 7, 8 and 14, but was unsuccessful.

He was then teamed up with two other officers who managed to seize a cigarette butt on Jan. 17, he said.

​Seized home computers searched

Coughlan said he examined three computers seized from Oland's home, reviewing emails and internet browser history for anything that might be relevant to the investigation.

"I read for hours," he said.

Defence lawyer Alan Gold asked if he was searching for evidence of an intention to commit a crime, such as "how long does it take a person to die?"

"That would have been useful," said Coughlan.

"If the Reversing Falls is a good place to get rid of a weapon because of the tides?" asked Gold.

"Something like that would have caught my attention," Coughlan replied.

But after days of searching a large amount of data, "you don't find a single piece of evidentiary material that could be brought to court?" asked Gold.

Coughlan agreed.

Juror asks about accused's court conduct

Oland's cellphone usage became an issue at court on Wednesday.

Justice John Walsh said he received a note from a juror during a recess, asking about Oland using his phone during the court proceedings.

Walsh assured the jury Oland "is not playing games," during his trial. "He is not not paying attention."

Oland is sending text messages to his defence lawyers, he said.

"In the old days," defendants used to have to write a note, stand up, and hand it to their lawyers, he said.

"Now, with technology, it's being done electronically."

Trial could end ahead of schedule

Walsh also told the jury the trial, which started on Sept. 16, could wrap up earlier than expected.

It's currently scheduled to take about 65 days, until Dec. 18, making it one of the longest criminal trials in New Brunswick history.

But Walsh said the Crown and defence are trying to whittle down the number of witnesses who have to testify.

The trial resumes on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.