SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Dennis Oland spoke for the first time in his own defence Tuesday, telling his lawyer he didn’t kill his father and describing their last meeting as an “engaging and wonderful conversation.”
The courtroom was full to overflowing for Oland’s testimony at his murder trial, now in its 12th week, and defence lawyer Gary Miller asked his client moments into his testimony whether he killed Richard Oland.
“No. No, I did not,” he replied.
Oland, 47, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his father, a well-known businessman whose family founded Moosehead Breweries, the oldest independently owned brewery in Canada.
The 69-year-old was found face down in a pool of blood in his office in Saint John, N.B., on July 7, 2011. A Court of Queen’s Bench jury has heard he suffered 45 blunt and sharp-force wounds to his head, neck and hands, though no murder weapon was ever found.
Police identified Dennis Oland as a suspect during an interview with him the day after the murder. He had visited his father’s office on July 6 and the Crown has said he is the last known person to see Richard Oland alive.
Before Oland began his testimony, the jury was given a 22-page document that Miller called a timeline of events for July 6 and 7, 2011.
A grainy, black and white surveillance video was played for the jury that showed someone getting into a light coloured car on Canterbury Street near Richard Oland’s office, then opening and closing the hatchback before getting into the vehicle and driving away between 6:12 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. on July 6, 2011.
Oland said he is the person in the video and it shows him after a short meeting with his father at his office. He said he put things into the back of his car, read an email or text, and then took off his jacket as he got into the vehicle.
Earlier video showed Dennis Oland leaving his office just after 5 p.m. on July 6, 2011, and walking towards a parking garage. Video also shows his vehicle in the area around his father’s office.
Oland testified that he realized when he arrived to see his father that he had forgotten a book he wanted to show him when they discussed genealogy. He began to return to his office but didn’t have the pass card to access his building after hours.
He decided to return to his father’s office without the book and video played in court showed him parking on Canterbury Street around 5:25 p.m.
“I was happy I could do my genealogy chat with my dad with the stuff I had,” he said, adding that he had prepared notes for the meeting.
Oland said he went into his father’s office just after 5:30 p.m. Shown surveillance video from the same time period, Oland identified Richard Oland’s business associate Bob McFadden and son Galen McFadden walking across Canterbury Street at 5:32 p.m., and then Richard Oland’s secretary getting into her husband’s car and leaving.
Oland said his father greeted him with a handshake and asked: “How’s it going?”
It was the first time for a while that they had been able to get together to talk about genealogy, Oland testified.
“How was the meeting with your father?,” Miller asked.
“We had a great time,” Oland replied. “It was an engaging and wonderful conversation.”
Oland says he left his father’s office around 6:12 p.m.
A surveillance camera video played in court showed Oland crossing Canterbury Street at that time carrying a bag, which he identified as a reusable grocery bag from Sobeys.
“Someone told me it’s my man purse,” Oland said, prompting laughter in the court.
He said he later realized he’d forgotten a logbook that he was supposed to take from his father’s office to give to an uncle, Jack Connell, so he circled the block and parked in a gravel lot on Princess Street.
The logbook, which was from a camp on his mother’s side of the family, was on the table in the middle of the office, Oland said.
Previous witnesses have testified there was blood spatter on the table where Dennis Oland said the logbook had been.
Oland said he and his father talked about entries in the logbook before he left again after 6:30 p.m., when he drove home, stopping on the way to check to see if his children were swimming at the Renforth Wharf.
Video showed Oland and his wife at Cochran’s Market in Rothesay at 7:38 p.m. buying some produce. At about 10:30 p.m., a video showed Oland at an Irving gas station buying milk.
The next morning, Oland said he delivered the logbook to his parents home where Connell was staying before shopping for parts to repair a problem on a boat his wife co-owns with a friend.
Oland said he went to the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club to make the repairs and received a call from Connell around 12:30 p.m. to say something had happened.
“I was fearful it was one of my kids. He said, ‘No, it’s your father.’ “