New Brunswick

Dennis Oland murder trial hears suspected weapon was drywall hammer

Saint John police believe Richard Oland was killed with a drywall hammer, or "hammer-type" instrument, the lead investigator revealed at Dennis Oland's murder trial on Thursday.

No weapon was ever found, lead investigator Const. Stephen Davidson testifies

Dennis Oland chats with two of his lawyers, Gary Miller and James McConnell, after his second-degree murder trial unexpectedly adjourned early for the day on Thursday. (CBC)

Saint John police believe Richard Oland was killed with a drywall hammer, or "hammer-type" instrument, the lead investigator told Dennis Oland's murder trial on Thursday.

It is the first time the suspected weapon has been revealed since the prominent businessman's bludgeoned body was discovered in his uptown office more than four years ago.

No weapon was ever found, said Const. Stephen Davidson.

Richard Oland, 69, suffered 45 blunt and sharp force injuries to his head, neck and hands.

The pathologist who conducted the autopsy previously testified 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 "chop" through bone without breaking apart and leaving pieces in the wounds.

Richard Oland's blunt force injuries had a faint cross-hatch pattern in them, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy testified. (DIY)
Whether it was two weapons or two different surfaces on the same weapon, Dr. Ather Naseemuddin could not say.

Drywall hammers, also known as drywall hatchets, are hand tools that typically have a bevelled hammer head with a waffle design on one side to nail up gypsum board, and a sharp axe on the other side to score the drywall.

Davidson testified there was "speculation" about the murder weapon being a drywall hammer following the autopsy, which was performed on July 8, 2011.

Oland's body was found the morning of July 7, lying face down in a large pool of blood in his investment firm office at 52 Canterbury St.

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 to second-degree murder.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
Davidson said police searched the crime scene, the accused's home, and around the Renforth Wharf and Bill McGuire Community Centre in Rothesay, but did not locate any weapon.

In a videotaped statement to police on July 7, Dennis Oland said he had stopped at the wharf on his way home to Rothesay after visiting his father to see if his children were there swimming.

He made the stop even though he was already running late and his wife Lisa, who was sick, was anxious for him to get home, the court heard on Wednesday, when the second half of the 2.5-hour statement was played.

Victim's cellphone still missing

Police also never found Richard Oland's iPhone 4. It was the only item that went missing from the crime scene. His wallet, Rolex watch, electronics equipment and BMW, which was parked outside, were untouched.

Davidson testified about cellphone tests he conducted as part of the investigation on March 22, 2012 — eight months after the murder.

He was issued an iPhone 4 and, using the same service as the victim, made a series of calls at various locations in the Saint John and Rothesay areas to see which cellphone towers picked up the signals.

Const. Stephen Davidson marked on an aerial photograph of the uptown area the route he travelled as he made a series of cellphone calls as part of the murder investigation. (Court exhibit)

Davidson said he started on Canterbury Street, near Oland's office, went to Princess Street, toward Water Street, back up to Kings Square, back to Canterbury Street and then down to Harbour Station, making 59 test calls.

About 145 additional calls were made from 14 other locations, including Highway 1 eastbound, near Strescon, and the old Rothesay Road exit, the court heard.

But some of Davidson's notes about the longitudes and latitudes didn't match up with the court evidence.

As a result, the trial, which was late getting started on Thursday morning and had a couple of recesses as lawyers worked on "some documentation," was adjourned for the day around noon.

"Some issues have arisen," Justice John Walsh told the jury. "Matters have to be resolved."

Court will start at 9 a.m. on Friday, instead of the usual 9:30 a.m., and there will be an "abbreviated" lunch break to help make up for lost time.

The trial, which started on Sept. 16, is scheduled to run until Dec. 18.

Suspect from Day 1

The jury heard Wednesday that Dennis Oland became a suspect the same day his father's body was found  -- about 2.5 hours into a videotaped statement he gave police at the station.

Davidson said Oland was initially considered a witness — someone who might have information that would help with the investigation.

Lead Crown prosecutor P.J. Veniot has not yet asked Davidson to explain why that changed.

During the statement, Oland told Davidson he was not involved in his father's death and had no reason to want him dead.

He said he was wearing a navy blazer when he went to visit his father on July 6, around 5:30 p.m., but video surveillance of him earlier that day shows he was wearing a brown jacket.

The Crown has said a brown jacket seized from Oland's bedroom closet had four areas of blood on it that matched Richard Oland's DNA profile.