New Brunswick

Saint John police's handling of Richard Oland murder investigation to be reviewed

The New Brunswick Police Commission will appoint an investigator to review the Saint John Police Force's investigation of the Richard Oland murder.

New Brunswick Police Commission will send results to Public Safety minister 'for consideration'

Dennis Oland, 47, faces life in prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland. (CBC)

The Saint John Police Force's handling of the Richard Oland murder investigation will be reviewed by the New Brunswick Police Commission.

The announcement comes just days after Dennis Oland, 47, was found guilty of second-degree murder in connection with the 2011 bludgeoning death of his multimillionaire father. Oland's defence team has said it plans to file an appeal.

Nicole Paquet, chair of the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners, requested the review by the independent provincial oversight body. Paquet told CBC News the review is necessary for the public's confidence in the force, and that it will also be important for the morale of the police officers themselves.

It's not about laying blame, she said, it's about finding areas that need to be improved.

"It's very important that we look at those areas brought forward by [Court of Queen's Bench] Justice John Walsh in his instructions to the jury [at Dennis Oland's murder trial] to assure the public that those areas have been addressed, and if they still need to be addressed, that measures will be taken to restore public confidence in the investigative practices and policies of the Saint John Police Force."

The provincial commission will appoint an investigator.

Once the investigation is completed, the results and any recommendations will be advanced to the minister of public safety for consideration.

No timeline has been provided.

The Department of Public Safety declined to comment, citing the "ongoing investigation."

Defence lawyer Gary Miller also declined to comment on the commission investigation.

Problems highlighted during trial

The investigation dates back to July 7, 2011, when the body of Richard Oland, 69, was discovered lying face down in a pool of blood in his Saint John office. He had suffered 45 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head, neck and hands. No weapon was ever found.

His only son, Dennis Oland, who was the last known person to see his father alive, was quickly deemed a suspect as police investigated the death.

Dennis Oland was charged on Nov. 13, 2013. During his trial, the jury heard evidence that police failed to protect the crime scene from possible contamination, used the bathroom located in the foyer outside the victim's office for two days before it was forensically tested, and never tested the back door for evidence.

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

Police also failed to ask the pathologist whether a drywall hammer was a possible weapon.

A key piece of evidence in the Crown's largely circumstantial case against Oland — a blood-stained brown sports jacket — was also handled by the former lead investigator with his bare hands and rolled up into a 30 centimetre by 30 centimetre paper exhibit bag by another officer, the jury heard.

The jacket, which remained in the bag for four months before it was examined, was found to have three small bloodstains on it. The DNA extracted from those areas matched the victim's profile.

During his detailed instructions to the jurors, the judge highlighted several issues related to the police investigation, saying it was up to them to decide the significance of the issues.

Second review to be requested 

Saint John Police Chief John Bates, who joined the force in 2015, had previously asked the provincial commission to investigate allegations about Deputy Chief Glen McCloskey that arose during testimony at the trial.

Retired staff sergeant Mike King testified McCloskey, who was an inspector at the time, had suggested he lie to the court about him having been at the crime scene.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh highlighted several issues related to the police investigation in his final instructions to the jurors, saying it was up to them to decide the significance of those issues. (Andrew Robson court sketch)

McCloskey denied the allegations under oath, but admitted he entered crime scene twice — once to "observe the body" and a second time out of "curiosity."

Former Fredericton police chief Barry MacKnight had already been appointed to investigate that complaint.

There will be two separate investigations, said Paquet.

Steve Roberge, the executive director of the provincial commission, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The New Brunswick Police Commission investigates and resolves citizens' complaints relating to the conduct of police officers, according to its website.

It also determines if municipal, regional, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police forces offer "adequate services within the Province and whether each municipality and the Province are carrying out their responsibility for the maintenance of an acceptable level of police services," the website states.

The current chief of the Saint John force issued a statement shortly after Dennis Oland's conviction saying the jury's verdict provided "a degree of validation" for the beleaguered force.

"As chief of police, I do take some solace in the fact that our investigative team and the force, as a whole, which have been under some intense scrutiny and assailed with criticism … will have realized a degree of validation," Bates said.

"Not for a second, did I waiver in my belief or faith in their integrity, effort, or investigative skills."

Bates said he would address criticisms of the murder investigation "in further detail at a later date."

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