The man at the centre of a high-profile murder case says a report by the New Brunswick Police Commission missed the intent of its review of how the Saint John Police Force conducts investigations.
Dennis Oland says it’s regrettable the review did not address missteps during the investigation into the murder of his father, Richard Oland, in 2011.
Richard Oland, 69, was beaten to death in his Saint John office, his skull shattered by repeated blows from a weapon that was never found.
Dennis Oland was charged in the bludgeoning death of his father and spent close to a year in prison after being convicted by a jury in 2015. That verdict was overturned on appeal in 2016, and his second trial before judge alone resulted in a ruling of not guilty.
Justice Terrence Morrison of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench found that Crown prosecutors failed to prove their case against Dennis Oland beyond a reasonable doubt.
During the first trial, Justice Jack Walsh was critical of the investigation – namely a failure to secure the crime scene and nearby areas and exits, and a failure to have a pathologist consider if a drywall hammer could have been the murder weapon.
The New Brunswick Police Commission decided to look at homicides between 2014 and 2019 and found only one unsolved case and a 100-per-cent conviction rate on concluded investigations.
In a statement released Saturday evening, Dennis Oland said he is pleased the report contains encouraging conclusions about the force’s current investigative methods.
However, Oland said he expected the report to analyze missteps during the investigation into his father’s murder.
“Unfortunately, despite its original objective, the report does not analyze nor address the Force’s inadequacies, mistakes, lack of knowledge, tunnel vision, and numerous missteps during and following the investigation. Nor does the report examine the actions and grievous failings of individual members of the Force in relation to my father’s death,” Oland wrote.
“My family, as well as the citizens of Saint John and New Brunswick, fully expected the NBPC to complete this inquiry as originally mandated. It is regrettable this did not occur.”
The commission report, dated April 22, 2020, says the review team focused on reviewing all homicide investigations between 2014 and 2019 to determine if current practices meet standards expected during a major crime incident.
“In addition to the eleven homicide cases reviewed, a random sampling of 20 sudden death incidents that were either suicide or sudden death non-suicide were examined to evaluate the (Saint John Police Force) response to human death scenes that require adherence to crime scene policies and best practices until criminality is ruled out,” the report states.
The report says a number of gaps were discovered. It says in two of the incidents, there were civilians unnecessarily near or in the scene, and in one of the two incidents the attending coroner allowed family members to view the body before police completed their initial assessment.
In another case, a supervising sergeant entered the scene, but there was no note on the file giving a reason for the sergeant to view the body.
At the time of the review, only one homicide remained under investigation and it was believed police were close to criminal charges.
The commission report makes three recommendations. It requests that the Minister of Public Safety creates a provincial major case management policy. It also recommends the Saint John force establish standard procedures for major crime incidents and to utilize a Sudden Death Checklist for sudden deaths deemed non-criminal in nature.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2020.