Saint John police chief says Oland murder investigation no longer active

FREDERICTON — The Saint John Police Force said Wednesday it is not actively investigating the 2011 killing of multi-millionaire businessman Richard Oland despite last month's acquittal of Oland's son on a charge of second-degree murder in the case.

Police Chief Bruce Connell made the statement the day after New Brunswick's Public Prosecution Services announced they will not appeal Dennis Oland's acquittal.

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Dennis Oland was charged in the bludgeoning death of his father in Saint John, N.B. He 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 July 19.

Justice Terrence Morrison of the New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench found that Crown prosecutors failed to prove their case against Oland beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defence lawyer Alan Gold has said his client was the victim of police tunnel vision. After the ruling he called on the Saint John force to "reinvigorate" its investigation and "find the real perpetrators of this terrible, terrible crime." But the police chief says the investigation is done.

"It is the function of the Saint John Police Force to complete an investigation then turn the file over to the Crown prosecutor's office. The Crown decides if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a charge, as was done with this case," Connell said in a statement.

"Our investigators worked closely with the Crown prosecutors assigned to this file, both during the initial investigation and the follow up."

Connell said while the investigation is no longer active, police will consider any additional information or evidence that comes to their attention.

That statement drew a disappointed reaction from the Oland family.

"The family of Dennis Oland would certainly renew its offer of a reward, something that may provide the police with additional information or new evidence, which Chief Connell has suggested is required for further investigation to take place," they wrote in a statement released through their lawyer William Teed.

"Notwithstanding this offer, we would have thought that the complete re-examination of the evidence by fresh eyes — a common step used by many police forces in reviewing old cases — would have been the obvious next step. Sitting and waiting for clues to be delivered to the police department is a very disappointing response. As a family, we believe our husband and father deserves better."

Richard Oland, 69, was beaten to death in his Saint John office on July 6, 2011, his skull shattered by repeated blows from a weapon that was never found.

During the trial, the court heard that at least 19 Saint John officers entered the crime scene on the day the body was discovered — a parade defence lawyer Gold likened to a sightseeing tour. Many of the officers did not wear protective coverings, especially on their feet, despite the bloody scene.

The defence asked pointed questions of police officers testifying at the trial, suggesting there was a failure to prevent contamination of the crime scene and a failure to properly examine such areas as a possible back door escape route and an office washroom.

The New Brunswick Police Commission, an independent civilian oversight body, has yet to decide if it will review the Saint John Police Force's handling of the investigation.

"We are determining how to proceed in the public interest," Jennifer Smith, the commission's executive director, said in a statement. "This is an active, ongoing, important file for the commission, and we want to carefully assess all relevant info."

She said part of that determination will hinge on recommendations of an independent review of the commission itself. Alphonse MacNeil, a retired assistant commissioner with the RCMP, was appointed in May to conduct a review of the commission's policies, practices and procedures. Results are expected soon.

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