New Brunswick

Richard Oland survived only 'minutes,' murder trial hears

Richard Oland likely survived only minutes into his vicious bludgeoning, according to the pathologist who performed the autopsy.

WARNING: This story contains graphic material that some readers may find disturbing

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

Richard Oland likely survived only minutes into his vicious bludgeoning, according to the pathologist who performed the autopsy.

"In my opinion, these injuries would be rapidly fatal," Dr. Ather Naseemuddin testified Friday at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial in Saint John.

"Maybe 10 minutes. Maybe five," he said, although he was unable to estimate the actual time of death.

Richard Oland, 69, suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands, said Naseemuddin, clarifying that he had previously reported 46, but had mistakenly counted one injury twice.

The prominent businessman's body was discovered lying face down in a large pool of blood in his investment firm office on July 7, 2011.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Dennis Oland, 47, who was the last known person to see his father alive during a meeting at his office the night before, has pleaded not guilty in his death.

Naseemuddin says Richard Oland's injuries were "not survivable," even if he had received prompt medical attention.

The six defensive wounds to Oland's hands were likely among the first, when he was still conscious and able to try to defend himself, said Naseemuddin.

"There are so many injuries … which are terribly incapacitating, I would think those would have come after the victim was able to make any defensive motion."

The attack likely continued after Oland was already on the floor, defenceless, he said.

Notion of 2 perpetrators raised

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Alan Gold raised for the first time the notion of there having been two perpetrators involved.

"There must've been some initial involvement … with the attacker or attackers?" he asked, referring to the defensive wounds. Naseemuddin agreed.

The doctor also agreed when Gold suggested Oland was "physically quite capable of defending himself," because he was a "healthy, robust man," nearly six feet tall and 192 pounds.

Friday was Naseemuddin's second day on the stand. He continued to explain Oland's injuries to the jury using graphic photographs taken during the lengthy autopsy, a sketch he made, as well as his notes and final post-mortem report on the July 8, 2011 procedure.

There were about 35 sharp force injuries to his head, "consistent with chop wounds," and six blunt force injuries, resulting in 14 skull fractures.

Wasn't asked to speculate on weapon

Saint John police "did not ask me to speculate about any specific weapon and I did not do so," said Naseemuddin, referring to the time of the autopsy.

Crown prosecutor Patrick Wilbur asked him if the issue was discussed during a follow-up meeting with police, which Naseemuddin recalled as being "at least a few months later."

Dr. Ather Naseemuddin says Richard Oland's injuries were made by two separate surfaces, but couldn't say what weapon might have been used. (CBC)
"It's entirely possible that came up," the doctor said, but he could not recall.

Naseemuddin did say, however, that the injuries were inflicted by two separate surfaces — one that caused round wounds about three centimetres in diameter with a faint cross hatching pattern in them, and one with a sharp edge, strong enough to cut through bone without breaking apart and leaving pieces in the wounds.

Whether it was two weapons or two different surfaces on the same weapon, he could not say.

"So you, like everybody else, have no idea what that could have been, is that correct?" asked Gold. "Correct," he replied.

No weapon was ever found.

'Skull was completely broken'

The six fractures on the left side of Oland's head were "more rapidly fatal" than the ones on the right, said Naseemuddin, noting four of them created a depressed area in the skull measuring about 10 cm in length, seven centimetres in width and two centimetres deep.

Some of them "breached the outer table of the skull," and "entered the cranial cavity," reaching the brain, he said.

Defence lawyer Alan Gold asked the pathologist about the alcohol detected in Richard Oland's urine. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)
"This poor man's skull was completely broken, correct?" Gold asked, "Yes, that's fair to say," Naseemuddin replied.

Gold suggested it would take "considerable force" to break the skull and would cause noise in the process. "i completely agree," the doctor said.

​Seven of the lacerations on the right side of Oland's head were parallel, and spaced closely together. "It would appear these injuries were made in quick rapid succession," said Naseemuddin.

He noted there was an additional wound not included in the count. Oland's orbital plates, around his eyes, were like a cracked egg shell, indicating "some degree of frontal impact," which could have been caused by him falling onto the floor face-first.

There was also an "historical" bruise to his left chest, which was deemed unrelated to the slaying. Naseemuddin could not say when the bruising occurred or what the cause might have been.

No pre-existing sores on head noted

The prosecutor asked if Naseemuddin noted any open sores on Oland's head that were unrelated to the attack. He said he didn't recall seeing any.

Earlier in the trial, the defence presented evidence about Oland having a skin condition that would sometimes cause his scalp to bleed, laying the groundwork for another possible explanation for his blood being on his son's brown sports jacket.

Oland's long-time secretary Maureen Adamson confirmed the skin condition and said he often had scabs on his scalp.

Adamson also said Oland had a hearing problem and would often lean in when speaking to someone, sometimes touching their arms in the process.

The Crown has said the brown sports jacket, seized from Dennis Oland's closet, had four areas of blood on it matching the DNA profile of Richard Oland.

Dennis Oland was wearing a brown jacket when he stopped by his father's office at 52 Canterbury St., on July 6, 2011, Adamson testified. He was also captured on video surveillance earlier in the day wearing a brown jacket.

'Substantial' blood would be on attacker

The defence also continued to push its argument that the killer would have had a "significant" amount of blood on him or her.

Gold noted Richard Oland took "a little Paxil for anxiety." He asked if Oland also took Aspirin and whether that combination could cause someone to bleed more easily.

Sgt. Mark Smith, the head of the Saint John Police Force's forensic identification unit, said he was unaware of the victim's blood or DNA being found in Dennis Oland's car or on several of the items seized from his home. (CBC)
Naseemuddin said he didn't know if Oland took Aspirin, but confirmed it can interfere with blood clotting and that he wound up covered in blood while performing the autopsy.

During redirect, however, the prosecutor pointed out that the toxicology report by the provincial forensic toxicologist found "no common prescription or drugs of abuse."

Still, given the amount of blood at the crime scene, Gold asked Naseemudin whether Oland's attacker would have been "covered in blood."

"Certainly the weapon. I don't know about the clothing," he replied.

But Gold pointed out that when he asked Naseemuddin during the preliminary inquiry whether it was likely the attacker would have had a substantial amount of blood on him or her, his answer, under oath, was yes.

So Gold puts the question to him again. "I would agree that answer is true," Naseemuddin said.

On Thursday, the head of the Saint John Police Force's forensic identification unit testified he was unaware of any information about the victim's blood or DNA being found on Dennis Oland's Volkswagen Golf City, the red Compliments reusable grocery bag he reportedly had with him the night he visited his father, the bag's contents, or a log book that was in the office that night, which Dennis was supposed to deliver to his mother.

Sgt. Mark Smith also confirmed he had no information about any blood or DNA, identified as being Richard Oland's, being found in or on a list of items seized from Dennis Oland's home a week after his father's death, including shoes, pants, shirts, blue shorts, bathroom garbage can, and his cell phone.

He was not asked about the brown sports jacket.

Alcohol found in urine

Naseemuddin said no alcohol was found in the victim's blood or vitreous fluid, but a "low" amount was found in his urine — 2.3 mg/dl, indicating "alcohol consumption several hours prior to death," according to his report.

The defence lawyer converted that amount to the more common measurement of milligrams of alcohol per millilitres of blood, which is used in impaired driving cases.

Richard Oland's secretary, Maureen Adamson, testified the only alcohol she ever saw in the office was an old can of Alpine that had been there for a long time. (CBC )
Gold said it would have been 25.8 mg/100 mL and noted that a reading over 80 mg would result in an impaired driving offence.

But Naseemuddin argued that would be a blood alcohol reading. Oland's was in his urine.

"I'm not saying [the amount of alcohol in his urine is] large enough to represent a weekend in Vegas," said Gold. But he suggested the initial amount would have been higher, given the normal elimination process and whatever Oland might have urinated away prior to his death.

Oland's secretary previously testified that he didn't keep alcohol in the office and that she doesn't believe he left the office at all on the day he was killed. She could not say definitively, however, because she left over the lunch hour to bring him back a pizza, she said.

The trial wrapped up early on Friday.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh told the jury he didn't want to call a new witness, who wouldn't be able to complete testimony before the long weekend.

He said he didn't want anyone to be under oath throughout the weekend and didn't want to break up the jurors' train of thought.

He did encourage the jurors, however, to read the 12-page post-mortem report before they left for the day, while Naseemuddin's testimony was still fresh in their minds.

The trial resumes on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. It is scheduled to run until Dec. 18.

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