SAINT JOHN, N.B. — A talkative Dennis Oland chatted with police at length about his relationship with his difficult dad, Richard, initially unaware that investigators were narrowing in on him as the prime suspect in his father’s murder.
Video of the police interview with Dennis Oland on July 7, 2011, the day Richard Oland’s bludgeoned body was discovered, was shown Thursday at Oland’s retrial for the second-degree murder.
Oland’s defence team had tried to get the video excluded prior to the trial, but Justice Terrence Morrison of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench allowed it to remain in evidence. This second trial of Oland, whose 2015 conviction was set aside on appeal, is proceeding before Justice Morrison alone.
In the video, entered into evidence by Crown prosecutor P.J. Veniot, Oland denies having anything to do with his father’s death.
“I have no reason to want my father dead, to kill him,” Oland tells Const. Stephen Davidson of Saint John police in the video.
“No, I mean, we’ve had our … things. But no, I wouldn’t rob someone of the fun that they’re having and, you know, I … he’s just … no.”
The trial has heard already that 69-year-old Richard Oland was having fun. Worth an estimated $37 million, the former executive of Moosehead Breweries Ltd. and member of the prominent Maritime beer-making family was having a new racing yacht built in Spain.
Oland tells Davidson in the video his dad was in great health and still enjoyed racing yachts, skiing and fishing. Oland also said he had become aware, along with other members of the family, of an extramarital relationship his father was having and added that one of his sisters had discovered a jar of Richard’s Viagra.
Oland tells the police officer he discussed the affair with a family friend about a year before the murder. He said he told the friend he “should tell Dick that people know and it should stop.”
Sitting across from each other in a cramped police interview room in Saint John, Davidson asked Oland if he ever sailed with his dad.
“He’s just a real hard guy to be on a boat with, so we just stopped,” Oland said in the interview.
“Put you to work, huh?” Davidson asked.
“Well, it’s just, no. He just barks and barks and barks.”
Oland said he believed his father was somewhere on the autism spectrum and possibly had Asperger’s syndrome which he said would explain his social awkwardness.
“He pushed the wrong buttons sometimes,” he said of his father.
Richard Oland’s body was discovered lying face down on the floor of his Saint John office on the morning of July 7, 2011. By around 8:30 that evening – two and a half hours after his interview with police began – Dennis Oland was a suspect.
The prosecution contends Oland was facing serious financial problems and turned to his father for help on July 6, 2011, the day of the murder. Prosecutors say he killed his father “in a rage.”
Oland told police he only visited his father that day, between 5:45 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., to discuss a subject they were both interested in – the family history of the Olands.
The defence is making a case that the Saint John police mishandled the investigation and rushed to judgement in deciding very quickly that Dennis Oland was the killer.
Earlier on Thursday, the court heard from forensic toxicologist Dr. Albert Fraser, who examined bodily fluids taken from Richard Oland’s corpse.
Fraser said a small amount of alcohol found in Oland’s urine was “consistent with alcohol consumption several hours prior to death.”
The court learned there was no evidence that Oland had a drink during the day on July 6, 2011. Defence lawyer Alan Gold suggested the alcohol could have been ingested 60 to 90 minutes before death, but Fraser said that would be too fast for alcohol to travel through the stomach, into the circulatory system and into the urine.
Timeline is key in the trial since it is not known for sure when Oland was killed.
Dennis Oland left the office at 6:30 p.m. and the prosecution argues the killing occurred around that time. The defence is relying on a witness who heard loud thumps from Oland’s office between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. that night – a time that would exclude Dennis as the perpetrator.
But Fraser excluded the possibility that Richard Oland might have had a drink with an unknown assailant after his son left and shortly before his death.
The trial has learned that Oland was bludgeoned to death with an unknown weapon or weapons. The 45 wounds on his hands and head were mostly from a sharp-edged implement, such as an axe of some sort, and there were a few round wounds that appeared to be from a hammer.
Chris Morris, The Canadian Press