New Brunswick

'Nobody will let me forget': Witness testifies at Oland murder retrial about 'thumps'

A Crown witness in Dennis Oland's murder retrial maintains he heard "thumping" noises coming from Richard Oland's Saint John office the night the multimillionaire was killed — at a time when the accused was seen across town in Rothesay.

Anthony Shaw testified at Dennis Oland's retrial for 2nd-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father

Anthony Shaw arrives at the Saint John Law Courts building Wednesday to testify at Dennis Oland's murder retrial. (CBC)

A Crown witness in Dennis Oland's murder retrial maintains he heard "thumping" noises coming from Richard Oland's Saint John office the night the multimillionaire was killed — at a time when the accused was seen across town in Rothesay.

Anthony Shaw testified Wednesday he was working downstairs at Printing Plus on July 6, 2011, when he heard a "loud crash, a really hard crash," followed by 10 to 15 "quick thumps" around 7:30 p.m.

"It's my best guess," he said.

Shaw said he recalls that day "because nobody will let me forget it."

His testimony is crucial in the case. The defence has submitted a timestamped security video that shows Oland casually shopping at a drug store and country market with his wife around 7:38 p.m. in the neighbouring community of Rothesay, about a 15- or 20-minute drive from the city.

At Oland's first trial in 2015, Shaw testified he believed in retrospect the sounds he heard were of Richard Oland being killed.

The Crown has said it's up to the court to decide whether Shaw's "guesstimate" of the timing of the noises is accurate and whether they were the sounds of the victim being bludgeoned to death.

The pathologist who performed the autopsy testified earlier in the trial the victim would have survived only "minutes" after being attacked.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)

Dennis Oland, 50, is being retried for second-degree murder in his father's death. He is the last known person to have seen him alive when he visited him at his office on Canterbury Street that night, around 5:35 p.m. He told police he left around 6:30 p.m.

The body of the 69-year-old was found in the office the next morning, face down in a pool of blood. He had suffered 45 sharp- and blunt-force injuries to his head, neck and hands.

A jury found his only son guilty in 2015 of second-degree murder, but the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned his conviction, citing an error in the trial judge's instructions to the jury. Wednesday marked Day 25 of his judge-alone retrial.

The proceedings are scheduled to continue Thursday at 9:30 a.m. when the Crown calls its next witness.

John Ainsworth testified at the first trial that he heard noises coming from Richard Oland's office on July 6, 2011, sometime between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (CBC)

Shaw had testified at the first trial that he heard a "loud crash" and then "maybe eight or 10 repeated sounds" before 8 p.m. — sometime around 7:30 p.m., or 7:45 p.m.

Shaw initially told police at the scene on the day the victim's body was discovered that the noises occurred at "8ish," according to Const. Stephen Davidson's notes.

The retrial has not yet heard from John Ainsworth, the owner of Printing Plus, who was with Shaw that night.

Ainsworth previously testified he heard an initial thump, a slight lag, then eight or 10 thumps like "rapid fire" sometime between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

During his statement to police on July 8, 2011, Ainsworth had put the time as being about 30 to 45 minutes before a customer came in to send a fax via email. The email was timestamped at 8:11 p.m.

Anthony Shaw and John Ainsworth, who were working at Printing Plus on the evening of July 6, 2011, believe they heard Richard Oland being killed in his office upstairs. (CBC)

On Wednesday, Shaw told the court he had stopped by Printing Plus, located on the ground floor of 52 Canterbury St., on July 6, 2011, at 6 p.m. to visit his former boss and friend Ainsworth, as he often did.

He was helping Ainsworth with a computer project that night when they heard noises coming from the middle of Richard Oland's second-floor office, where his bludgeoned body would later be discovered.

"What, if anything, did you do?" asked Crown prosecutor Jill Knee.

We didn't do anything. We just kind of looked at each other and then [the noises] stopped.- Anthony Shaw, witness

"We didn't do anything. We just kind of looked at each other and then it stopped," replied Shaw.

He said he owned a similar building and once had a noise complaint about similar sounds that turned out to be a tenant putting furniture together.

"It just appeared to me that maybe they were doing stuff around the office, dropped something, or hanging something on the wall, working after hours," he said.

Asked what time he heard the noises, Shaw said it was "a while" after he had arrived at 6 p.m. and "quite a while" before he left at 9 p.m. He also recalled a man coming in around 8 p.m. to send a fax, which helped serve as a "reference point."

"So I'd guesstimate it to be around 7:30 p.m."

Shaw said he didn't hear anything unusual afterward and didn't see anyone coming or going from the building when he went out front four or five times to smoke cigarettes.

Investigation continued into 2018

The retrial also heard evidence Wednesday from forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks, including a supplemental report he prepared for Saint John police just three months ago.

He was retained on July 6, 2018 — exactly seven years after Richard Oland was killed — to compare Dennis Oland's silver Volkswagen Golf City with various July 6, 2011, security videos.

The videos show a silver car near Richard Oland's office, passing the King Street clock and at the Irving convenience store in Rothesay later that night, as well as videos from the next morning at Canadian Tire in east Saint John.

Fredericks' results were inconclusive, according to his report of Oct. 18, 2018. ​Oland's car and the cars in the videos were "consistent" and appeared to be of the "same class," but there were "no perceivable differences," he wrote.

When Oland testified in his own defence at his first trial, he confirmed the car in the videos was his.

"That's me again. That's me driving by," he had said of one video of a silver car driving in front of his father's office building at 6:21 p.m., revealing for the first time that he had made three trips to the office that night, not two as he originally told police.

Forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks compared Dennis Oland's clothes on security video footage with police photos. (CBC)

A previous analysis conducted by Fredericks in March 2012, comparing clothing items seized from Oland's home with clothing items he was wearing in various security videos on the day of the killing was also inconclusive, the courtroom heard.

One of the items was Oland's bloodstained brown sports jacket.

Oland told police he was wearing a navy blazer when he visited his father that night, but security video and witness testimony showed he was actually wearing a brown sports jacket.

The Crown has said the jacket, which was dry cleaned the morning after he was questioned by police, was later found to have four areas of blood on it and DNA that matched his father's profile.

Oland confirmed during his testimony at his first trial that he was wearing the brown sports jacket that night.

Instead of recalling Fredericks,who operates Forensic Video Solutions in Spokane, Wash., the Crown and defence agreed to use his videotaped testimony from Oland's first trial in 2015. It was played on several monitors in the courtroom.

Bloodstained sports jacket

This security video of Dennis Oland at Brunswick House on July 6, 2011, was one of the ones Grant Fredericks analyzed. (Court exhibit)

Fredericks testified he could not say definitively whether the jacket worn in the video was the same as the "known" seized jacket because of the low resolution of the compressed videos.

Fredericks found both jackets had two buttons on the right-hand side, a V-cut at the lapel, four buttons on the left sleeve and a breast pocket.

"After carefully examining the Known [seized] jacket … with the Questioned jacket worn by Male #1 [Dennis Oland] I have formed the opinion that the Known and Questioned jackets are of the same class," Fredericks stated in his report.

"The Questioned jacket is indistinguishable from the Known jacket. Since no unique characteristics are visible in the video that could uniquely identify the Questioned jacket, it is not possible to state that it is the same jacket.

"However, the Known jacket cannot be eliminated as being the Questioned jacket."

Fredericks reached the same conclusions for a blue and white checkered J. Crew dress shirt police believe Oland was wearing the night his father was killed and a pair of blue-grey J. Crew shorts police believed he was wearing in surveillance video at a convenience store in Rothesay at 10:32 p.m. that night

The shirt had four faint red stains on the front, a faded brown one on the lower left sleeve and a faded one on the inside of the right cuff, the retrial has heard. The RCMP forensic lab did not detect any human blood or DNA on the shirt, which had been laundered by the dry cleaners.