New Brunswick

Oland trial hears officers ought to have known how to protect crime scene

Saint John Police Force officers ought to have known how to protect the bloody crime scene where Richard Oland's bludgeoned body was discovered, says the head of the forensic identification unit.

Sgt. Mark Smith says washroom outside Richard Oland's office was used for 2 days before testing

Dennis Oland, 46, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland. (CBC)

Saint John Police Force officers ought to have known how to protect the bloody crime scene where Richard Oland's bludgeoned body was discovered, says the head of the forensic identification unit.

Sgt. Mark Smith made the comment during cross-examination at Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial in Saint John on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Smith revealed that officers who had been assigned to guard Richard Oland's office had been using the washroom located in the foyer area for two days before he tested it for evidence.

Defence lawyer Gary Miller asked whether Smith had given any instructions to the officers when he left the building at 52 Canterbury St.

Smith said he did not. "It would be implied," he said.

Sgt. Mark Smith, the head of the Saint John Police Force's forensic identification unit, was on the stand Tuesday for a fourth day. (CBC)
Miller argued it would be "about as basic police training as they can get," noting how bloody the crime scene was. Smith agreed.

Richard Oland, 69, was found lying face down in a large pool of blood in his uptown investment office on July 7, 2011, with "hundreds" of blood spatter stains around him, some up to nine feet away.

The prominent businessman had suffered 40 sharp and blunt force injuries to his head and neck and six defensive wounds to his hands.

Dennis Oland, 47, who was the last known person to see his father alive during a meeting at his Far End Corporation office the night before, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in his death.

Smith, who was the only forensic officer available on July 7, said he turned his attention to the washroom outside Oland's second-floor office on July 9.

He said he found a paper towel in the garbage can that appeared to have a blood stain on it, but there was "nothing else of note."

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
There was no blood on the walls or in the sink, but "officers on the scene had been using that washroom for two days prior," he said during his fourth day of testimony for the Crown.

"Did that concern you at all?" asked lead prosecutor P.J. Veniot.

"It did," said Smith, but he proceeded with his work.

A preliminary test of discarded paper towel indicated the possible presence of blood, he said, without divulging the results of the further analysis by the RCMP lab.

A swab of the bathroom sink had also tested positive for blood using a preliminary test, Smith told the court on Monday.

It's unclear how much the sink had been used during the previous two days.

Deadbolt also contaminated

The washroom is the second area other officers had touched before Smith could gather evidence.

Earlier in the trial, Smith said he had planned to test the deadbolt on a door located in the foyer outside Richard Oland's office for fingerprints.

But by the time he got to it, the door had been opened and therefore contaminated, "negating" his plans, he said.

The defence has argued the door, located on the second-floor of 52 Canterbury St., would have been the "preferred exit route" of the killer because it was the most "surreptitious."

It led to an alleyway out back, almost at ground level due to the building being on a hill, rather than down a steep flight of stairs and out the front of the building onto a busy street, the courtroom has heard.

Smith acknowledged Tuesday that he had "overlooked" photographing the door in question.

"It was always in the plan to do that at some point, but it wasn't completed" until July 23, 2015 — four years after Oland was killed, he said.

Car seized, tested

Dennis Oland's Volkswagen Golf, which was seized by police on July 14, 2011, did not appear to have been cleaned recently, said Sgt. Mark Smith. (Court exhibit)
Smith also testified about processing Dennis Oland's vehicle, which was seized during a search of his Rothesay home a week after his father's body was found.

The silver Volkswagen Golf was secured in the police garage and Smith examined it a few hours later. He said it looked clean on the outside, but it seemed as though the inside had not been cleaned for some time.

He noted the dirt and debris on the floor, visible in photographs of the car submitted into evidence, as well as the papers on the dash and around the consul area, a pair of women's shoes in the back seat, and numerous items in the trunk, including plastic cups, a sail cover, a lawnmower blade and dog toys.

Smith used a special forensic light and magnifying glass to search the inside for an "anomalies," then did some preliminary tests for any blood.

He swabbed 11 areas, including the door latches, the trunk release button, the steering wheel, the headlight and signal light switches, the emergency brake and the passenger seat.

Police seized some items from Dennis Oland's car, including a receipt found in the front passenger door, and a red reusable grocery bag in the trunk. (Court exhibit)
Some areas had "weak positive results," meaning they turned green when a special chemical was applied, but it "took awhile" and there "wasn't a lot of colour."

Other areas had "very weak positive results. And some, not at all," he said.

Smith subsequently tried two other procedures, spraying the floor, pedals, and the fabric seats with other chemicals, but all of those came back negative for blood.

Some items were seized from the car, including a receipt from an Irving station in Saint John's north end, which was found in the passenger side door and was from around the time Richard Oland's body was discovered.

A red reusable grocery bag was also seized from the trunk, along with some documents it contained, Smith said.

Possible shoe impression in blood

Smith said swabs of the driver's side door handle and the trunk release were among the first five items sent to the RCMP lab in Halifax for further analysis.

Swabs of the victim's fingernails and a DNA sample obtained during the autopsy were also sent in that first batch on July 12, 2011, he said.

Smith limited the submissions to five in order to get a quicker turnaround time of 25 days for results, the courtroom heard. Several other items were sent in the following months and years, he said.

The Crown plans to call DNA experts to testify about the findings later in the trial.

My results were the same, insufficient detail to be able to come up with any kind of meaningful comparison.- Mark Smith, Saint John Police Force forensics sergeant

Smith also explained the extensive testing done on some geometric patterns found in the blood around Oland's body.

He said he initially thought they were bootprints left by one of the officers who helped remove the body, but upon reviewing photos of the crime scene, he realized the marks were there before the body was removed.

Smith sent photographs to SICAR (Shoeprint Image Capture and Retrieval) database in Ottawa in hopes they would be able to determine the make and model of the footwear that left the impressions.

But there was a lack of detail and unique identifiers, he said.

Smith also reviewed video surveillance of Dennis Oland taken on July 6, 2011, to see what shoes he was wearing that day, and created impressions of six pairs of footwear seized from his home to compare the tread marks to those at the crime scene.

"My results were the same, insufficient detail to be able to come up with any kind of meaningful comparison," he said.

Computer forensically examined

Smith also swabbed a computer in Richard Oland's office on July 12, 2011, to determine who the last user was, he said.

He tested the left key of the computer mouse, as well as the enter key and space bar, following a conversation with the tech crime experts at the RCMP forensics lab in Fredericton.

The mouse and keyboard of this computer in Richard Oland's office was swabbed in a bid to identify the last user, the court heard on Tuesday. (Court exhibit)
The computer in question was located at a spare desk in the office, which was being used that summer by Galen McFadden, who was helping Oland with a family tree project he was working on by scanning old photographs and other material.

McFadden is the son of Robert McFadden, who worked in Oland's office, was co-executor of Oland's will and went on to become the president of Far End Corporation, the court has heard.

Galen McFadden voluntarily provided Saint John police with a DNA sample on June 20, 2013, which has been entered into evidence.

His father's DNA was also obtained from a straw he used at East Side Mario's about six months later, Smith said.

Smith has not yet explained why the McFadden DNA samples were obtained.

The trial resumes on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., when the defence will continue its cross-examination of Smith.