New Brunswick

Dennis Oland tells murder trial he didn't kill his father

Dennis Oland says he did not kill his father, prominent New Brunswick businessman Richard Oland, in 2011, and describes their last encounter as being "a great time."

Describes last visit with Richard Oland on July 6, 2011, as being a 'great time'

Dennis Oland, 47, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland. He answered questions from his defence lawyer on Tuesday. (CBC)

Dennis Oland says he did not kill his father, prominent New Brunswick businessman Richard Oland, in 2011, and describes their last encounter as being "a great time."

Oland, 47, made the statements on Tuesday, while testifying in his own defence on the 45th day of his second-degree murder trial in the Saint John Court of Queen's Bench. It's the first time Oland has spoken publicly about the case.

He is accused of bludgeoning his father to death on or about July 6, 2011.

Defence lawyer Gary Miller wasted no time in getting his client to address the question at hand, as the packed courtroom hung on every word.

"We'll start at the end. Did you kill your father?" Miller asked.

"No. No, I did not," Oland replied.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. His investments were worth about $36 million at the time, the court has heard. (Canadian Yachting Association)

Oland said he went to visit his father at his investment firm office around 5:30 p.m. that July day, to discuss family genealogy. He told police he left around 6:30 p.m., making him the last known person to see the multimillionaire alive.

The 69-year-old's body was discovered in his Canterbury Street office the following morning, with 45 sharp and blunt-force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.

Oland said his father greeted him with a handshake and they had "an engaging and wonderful conversation."

They also laughed together about an illegitimate child in the family tree Oland had discovered during a recent trip to England, and how it debunked the "elite" notion of the Olands in Halifax.

"Dad wore that with pride. He didn't go for the hoity-toity type of stuff," Oland said.

3 trips to father's office

Under questioning by Miller, Oland explained that he actually went to his father's office three times that night — although he only mentioned two visits in his statement to police.

The first time, he started up the stairs to the second-storey office, but realized he had forgotten some documents at work.

He left to go back to get them, driving instead of walking — even though it's only a couple of blocks away — because it's easy to park on Chipman Hill and quickly access the elevator, he said. But realized he didn't have a passcard required to operate the elevator at work after hours.

So he went back to his father's office the second time, when they had their meeting. "I was happy I could do my genealogy chat with my dad with the stuff I had."

When he left, he realized he had forgotten to take an old logbook of a family camp with him, so he went back in and his father kept him there talking for a while, he said.

Jury sees security videos

Miller used a series of time-stamped surveillance video to lead Oland through his comings and goings on the day in question.

The first video shows Oland leaving his office at CIBC Wood Gundy, where he worked as a financial adviser, at 5:08 p.m. He said he went to the parking garage to retrieve his car and headed to his father's office.

There are two videos that show a silver car driving up King Street at 5:16 p.m. and then again two minutes later. "It's a Volkswagen Golf City for sure. It's me," said Oland, describing the unique features of his vehicle in detail.

He said he drove up King Street twice because he was having trouble finding a parking spot and had to loop around. He found a spot in the same lot his father used, at the corner of Canterbury and Princess streets, headed up the stairs, but turned around to go back to work to get the documents he forgot.

Video shows him driving up King Street again at 5:22 p.m., on his way back to his father's office without the extra documents. His father's secretary was still there when he arrived, but left around 5:45 p.m., leaving the two men alone together.

Stopped at wharf on way home

Miller asked Oland what time he left. "I would say around 6:12 p.m.," he said.

Oland said he had started to walk in the wrong direction, thinking his car was in the lot where he had parked it the first time, walked back toward his car, which was parked on the west side of the street, then crossed the street because he was going to go to the drugstore. "I just decided not to do that."

He started to drive away at 6:14 p.m, realized he forgot the logbook, decided to go back and was having trouble finding a parking spot again, he said. He looped around at 6:21 p.m., turned the wrong way up Princess Street "about two car lengths" and pulled into a gravel lot.

"You went back into your father's office?" asked Miller. "Yes, I did," replied Oland.

He left for the last time around 6:36 p.m., when his wife Lisa called. She was a "bit upset" because "she didn't have a clue where I was," he said.

Oland told her he would be right there, but decided to stop at Renforth Wharf on his way home to Rothesay to see if his children were there swimming. "It's not easy when you go through a divorce and you only see your kids half the time … If I can find a way to run into them, I do," he said.

The trial heard earlier that Oland was seen by two witnesses picking up a mystery object at the wharf. Oland testified it was a couple of beer bottles. He didn't want any broken glass there, so he put them in a red Sobeys Compliments reusable grocery bag he had with him — "my man purse."

His children weren't there, so he drove home.

Father of 3

Miller also led the accused through a series of emails, text messages and phone calls he made and received on the day in question.

Much of the painted the picture of an ordinary day, dealing with family and work-related issues.

The jury learned through the communications that Oland has three children — a son, Henry, who was 11 at the time, and "quite a handful," a then-13-year-old daughter named Hannah, with whom Oland was in "a bit of a squabble" and seeking an apology from, and another daughter, Emily, whose age has not been given, but was hoping to get her braces off that day.

Miller submitted a 22-page timeline into evidence that refers to related exhibits. Justice John Walsh told the jurors it will help them to follow the evidence and save the court time, instead of having to pull out each individual exhibit.

But the timeline is not a substitute for the evidence that's given, the judge stressed. "It is a chart, a guide, a timeline. Nothing more, nothing less," he said.

Miller told the jury in his opening statement last week that after living under "intense scrutiny" for more than four years, the accused would "describe in considerable detail what he did and who he communicated with" on July 6 and 7.

He also hinted the evidence will challenge the Crown's position that Oland was the last person to see his father alive.

Miller's direct examination of Oland will continue on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. It's unclear when the Crown will begin its cross-examination.

Told police he was wearing navy blazer

A key piece of evidence in the Crown's case against Oland is the blood-stained brown sports jacket seized from his bedroom closet a week after his father's slaying.

DNA extracted from the stained areas matched his father's DNA profile, the trial has heard. The chance of it not being the victim's DNA is one in 20 quintillion, an expert has testified. 

Oland told police he was wearing a navy blazer when he went to visit his father on the night in question, but video surveillance of him earlier that day shows he was wearing a brown jacket.

His mother, sister, wife, uncle and a friend are also expected to testify on his behalf.

The trial is scheduled to run until Dec. 18, making it one of the longest criminal trials in New Brunswick history.