SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Multi-millionaire businessman Richard Oland did not have time to put up much of a defence when he was attacked in his office and killed by multiple blows that caved in his skull, his son’s murder trial was told Tuesday.
Dr. Ather Naseemuddin, the Saint John pathologist who conducted the autopsy, said there were only five defensive-type wounds to the back of Oland’s hands, possibly caused as he initially tried to shield his head from the dozens of strikes that quickly killed him.
It was a difficult day at the trial of Dennis Oland, 50, for the second-degree murder of his father, whose bludgeoned body was found lying in a pool of blood on July 7, 2011.
Naseemuddin carefully chronicled each blow inflicted on the 69-year-old former executive of Moosehead Breweries Ltd., counting 45 in total.
The court was warned in advance that the autopsy photos would be difficult to view. Dennis Oland appeared to rarely, if ever, look at them, as did most members of his family who are in court every day, supporting him.
Oland has steadfastly maintained his innocence. He was charged in 2013 and tried and convicted by a jury in 2015. That verdict was set aside on appeal in 2016 and the new trial ordered.
“These injuries were rapidly fatal,” Naseemuddin told Crown prosecutor Jill Knee, who asked if Oland could have survived for awhile after the attack.
He said Oland was incapacitated very quickly.
The trial has heard initial evidence suggesting that one person working in the same building on the night of the murder heard noises coming from Oland’s office at a time that would exclude Dennis as the perpetrator.
Naseemuddin said there is “no way” Richard Oland could have lingered for several hours and made thumping noises at a later time on the night of July 6, 2011.
Dennis Oland left his father’s office at around 6:30 that evening – the last known person to have seen Richard alive. The witness believes he heard the noises between 7:30 and 8 p.m., when Dennis was shopping some distance away in Rothesay, N.B.
Prosecutors contend Dennis killed his father “in a rage” when they were alone in the office between 5:45 and 6:30 p.m. The main motive, they say, was Dennis Oland’s financial difficulties.
His father, a member of the prominent Maritime beer-brewing family, was estimated to be worth about $37 million at the time of his death. His son was deeply in debt and “on the edge financially.”
A weapon was never found. The pathologist said most of the blows were from a sharp-edged implement that cut and chopped into Oland’s head, in some cases through the skull to the brain. There are also five injuries to the head inflicted with a round object, one that had a cross-hatch pattern that was imprinted onto Oland’s skin.
“Either a different tool was used or one with a different edge,” Naseemuddin told the court.
Defence lawyer Michael Lacy showed Naseemuddin a photo of a hammer end with a cross-hatch pattern. The pathologist said a tool of that type could possibly have inflicted the round blows on Oland’s head. He said he was never shown such a potential weapon by the Saint John police.
Naseemuddin also agreed with Lacy that whatever weapons or weapons were used would have had blood on them.
“It was a very bloody situation wasn’t it?” Lacy said. “I would agree,” the pathologist replied.
Naseemuddin said he cannot speculate as to what the weapon was, saying it would be pure “conjecture” on his part. If there is a weapon found in connection to a crime, then he said he can compare it to injuries but that was not possible in this case.
The blows to the left side of Oland’s head were far more severe than those to the right. The autopsy photos illustrate a ferocious attack in which several of the strikes cross over each other and several smash through bones. Naseemuddin initially made a mistake and counted one injury twice in trying to figure out how many blows were struck.
There was a small amount of alcohol detected in Oland’s urine, but not in his blood. Naseemuddin said that indicates alcohol consumption several hours before death.
The cause of death was massive head trauma, the pathologist said.
“It wasn’t an accident and it wasn’t suicide,” Naseemuddin said. “It appears to be a homicide.”
Chris Morris, The Canadian Press