Douglas Garland triple-murder trial: medical examiner says victims ‘may still have been alive’

Douglas Garland triple-murder trial: medical examiner says victims ‘may still have been alive’
WATCH ABOVE: Testimony at the Douglas Garland murder trial raised the possibility the Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents, Alvin and Kathy Liknes, may have survived a violent attack in the Liknes home. Nancy Hixt reports.

WARNING: This story contains graphic content that some readers might find disturbing. Discretion is advised.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim said based on her observations, it’s possible Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents, Alvin and Kathy Liknes, could have survived an attack in the Liknes home.

Brooks-Lim presented expert evidence Wednesday in the triple-murder trial of Douglas Garland.

READ MORE: Timeline – Missing Calgary family Nathan O’Brien, Alvin and Kathryn Liknes

Garland, 57, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of five-year-old Nathan O’Brien and his grandparents, Alvin and Kathy Liknes.

The trio was last seen June 29, 2014 after an estate sale in their southwest Calgary home.

Brooks-Lim went to the Liknes home and met with investigators July 2, 2014.

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“There appeared to be at least three areas of bloodletting in the home,” she said, including “bloody drag marks.”

She said after looking at all the evidence, she concluded, “it is entirely possible the three missing individuals may have sustained non-fatal or fatal injuries at the home.”

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Under cross-examination, defence lawyer Kim Ross asked if it would be fair to say “more likely than not, these people suffered fatal injuries at the house?”

“It would be difficult to say,” Brooks-Lim said, adding “they may still have been alive.”

Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of Douglas Garland’s murder trial

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Brooks-Lim said she consulted with another forensic anthropologist who examined the charred bone fragments under a microscope.

“She determined the majority of the bone fragments she had examined were animal, but there were fragments within there that she felt could be human.

“There were, I believe, at least one or two fragments she felt could have been from a child under five.”

She also testified there were fragments found that could have been adult human bones.

Brooks-Lim went on to tell the court about her visit to the Garland property on July 5, 2014.

“There were remains that were in a pile of burned material,” she said, adding she went on to sift through the top layers to see if she could identify any of the bones as human.

But she said the remains were “very severely burned”–fragmented and in small pieces. She testified she was unable to tell if they were human.

Crown Prosecutor Shane Parker also asked Brooks-Lim about a number of topics, including how long it would take to burn a body.

The doctor testified it would depend on a number of factors, including the size of the body and several environmental factors, such as if the temperature is constant.

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Brooks-Lim said at 1000 C, a body will burn to ash. In a steady environment such as a crematorium, it would take approximately two hours for an adult human body to burn completely.

READ MORE: ‘Most painful torture’ among accused triple-murderer Douglas Garland’s Google searches

Const. Brian Clark of the Calgary Police Cyber Crimes Team also testified Wednesday, listing numerous documents and “how to” guides on a hard drive found hidden in the rafters of the Garland home.

“The Death Dealer’s Manual” was a scanned document outlining “a decade’s research in ruthless combat to the death,” Clark said.

Many of the documents found listed ways to kill, the tools to use and how to dispose of bodies.

Clark said one book “recommended using a dagger” and using “the element of surprise.” Clark also noted it said the best time to conduct a lethal assault is between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Court heard a “How to kill” book was found on the drive. It described ways “to stop the breathing, start the bleeding and promote established shock.”

One of the documents found recommended having a duffel bag with essential items such as plastic gloves, handcuffs and knives, Clark said.