Ex-deputy police chief admits mistakes in Oland case, denies allegations

The former deputy chief of the Saint John Police Force acknowledged Thursday mistakes were made during the Richard Oland homicide investigation, including his own movements within the bloody crime scene, which were more extensive than he previously admitted.

Glen McCloskey testified Thursday at Dennis Oland's murder retrial in the 2011 death of his father

Glen McCloskey retired as deputy chief in April. (CBC)

The former deputy chief of the Saint John Police Force acknowledged Thursday mistakes were made during the Richard Oland homicide investigation, including his own movements within the bloody crime scene, which were more extensive than he previously admitted.

But Glen McCloskey denied the allegations three other officers made about his conduct when they testified earlier in the murder retrial of the victim's son, Dennis Oland.

McCloskey told the court he did not sit on anything at the scene and did not try to influence another officer's testimony about his presence there.

He also said he was "invited" into the bloody office by the head of the forensic unit before he had finished processing the scene for evidence.

McCloskey, who was the inspector in charge of the criminal investigation division at the time, admitted going into the scene a second time without the permission or supervision of the forensic officer, farther than previously allowed and closer to the body — all without wearing any protective gear.

He said he did so with then-Const. Greg Oram out of "professional curiosity" to "try to figure out what happened."

They were only there for about two or three minutes and he was careful not to touch anything before the forensic officer returned and told them "in not so polite terms" to get out, he said.

"But having said that, my judgment was 100 per cent totally wrong. I should have never been in the scene."

At the first trial in 2015, Glen McCloskey indicated in green his first trip into the office with forensic Sgt. Mark Smith to view the body in the pool of blood and in orange his second trip in with Const. Greg Oram. On Thursday, he drew the blue semi-circle on the right, indicating additional movements he made in the crime scene. (Court exhibit)

Oland, 50, who is the last person known to have seen his father alive when he visited him at his office on the evening of July 6, 2011, is being retried for second-degree murder in his death.

The body of the 69-year-old multimillionaire was found in the office at 52 Canterbury St. the next morning.

A jury found his son guilty in 2015, but the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial, citing an error in the trial judge's instructions to the jury.

Dennis Oland, 50, has been on bail, living in the community under conditions, since October 2016, when the Court of Appeal set aside his murder conviction and ordered a new trial. (CBC)

Although McCloskey said he tried his best to avoid the large pool of blood and blood spatter in the office, he agreed with the defence he couldn't be certain he didn't disturb any evidence. He said he regrets going in.

Police should have done a better job of protecting the crime scene from possible contamination, and broadened it to include the entire three-storey building and back alley, said McCloskey.

"We certainly put different procedures in place to tighten up what we believe that we made some errors on."

McCloskey retired in April 2018 before he was scheduled to face an arbitration hearing in connection with a New Brunswick Police Commission investigation into his conduct and the matter was dropped.

He testified he "vigorously" fought the "unprincipled" investigation for two-and-a-half years at "great expense" to his family, but given some health issues and the sudden death of his son in December 2017, he "had nothing left to give."

"If I retired, it would stop."

The provincial police watchdog only has the authority to discipline active officers.

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

A false memory

The court also heard Thursday from the former lead investigator, retired constable Rick Russell, who offered what appeared to be important new evidence for the Crown in the seven-year-old case, but that quickly proved to be a false memory when challenged by the defence.

Russell said he remembered this spring a conversation he had with Const. Stephen Davidson at the scene on the day the body was discovered regarding the back door, which was located in the foyer outside the victim's second-floor office.

"I asked if he checked it and he replied that he did and it was locked," said Russell.

Rick Russell, a former constable with the major crime unit, was the lead investigator on the Richard Oland homicide for about three months before retiring. (CBC)

The defence has previously challenged Davidson's testimony about whether the door was locked because he had no notes about it and other officers didn't recall seeing him doing so.

The defence contends that door would have been the preferred exit route of the "killer or killers" because it led to an alleyway instead of the front of the building.

The door, which locks from the inside with a deadbolt and from the outside with a key, was never tested for forensic evidence because it had already been opened and contaminated.

Obviously I'm mistaken on this and I apologize to the court for this inaccuracy.- Rick Russell, former lead investigator

Russell said when he retired three months later, he wanted to put everything behind him and must have forgotten about the conversation with Davidson when he testified at Oland's first trial in 2015 and the preliminary inquiry in 2014.

When he remembered it, he said, he had to "in good conscience to speak the truth … in spite of the repercussions that might arise — both positive and negative."

Defence lawyer Alan Gold asked Russell if the memory might be "wishful thinking," given the importance of the issue. He pointed out the records show Russell and Davidson were never together at the scene that day and said the Crown agrees with the defence on that point.

"Obviously I'm mistaken on this and I apologize to the court for this inaccuracy," replied Russell.

The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. with continued testimony from the head of forensics, Sgt. Mark Smith.

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