CRIME

Police use heavy machinery to dig on farm owned by suspect in Bosma slaying

TORONTO and AYR, ONT. — The Globe and Mail

Police officers dig into the ground while searching on the property of Dellen Millard's North Dumfries farm near Cambridge May 30, 2013 to execute a search warrant in connection with the disappearance of Laura Babcock and the suicide of the accused killer's father, Wayne Millard. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto police have wrapped up their search of the farm owned by the man charged with killing Tim Bosma, work done in connection with two other cases.

Homicide investigators used a backhoe to dig on part of Dellen Millard’s rural property south of Kitchener, Ont., on Thursday in relation to the disappearance of his friend Laura Babcock, who was reported missing last July, and the November death of his father Wayne, which was initially deemed a suicide.

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“We have suspicions about a certain parcel of land,” Staff Inspector Greg McLane, who is in charge of the homicide squad, said earlier.

The farm search came as Hamilton police revealed they discovered stolen vehicles at Mr. Millard’s hangar at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. One was a Harley-Davidson motorcycle belonging to a Toronto man which had been dismantled.

“We’re still investigating, trying to find owners,” said Staff Sergeant Matt Kavanagh, who put the number of vehicles at “way less than 10.”

Deepak Paradkar, Mr. Millard’s lawyer, criticized the police for releasing the information, saying it “taints” his client. “I would expect due process to take place. Gather the information and try it in court, rather than trying it in the court of public opinion,” he said.

Mr. Paradkar said Toronto police didn’t inform him that they had obtained a search warrant for Mr. Millard’s farm. The homicide unit said its work at the farm was complete and the “investigation is ongoing.”

On Thursday morning, an orange backhoe began digging in a field behind Mr. Millard’s barn and officers peered into several holes – some several metres deep. Police also used a hand-held metal detector to survey the scene. By mid-afternoon, officers began filling in the holes with a small digger and then dug a new hole slightly north of the area they had been focusing on for several hours. They left by 4 p.m.

Investigators would not say whether they had found any evidence.

When Toronto police began searching the rural property on Tuesday, they used a ground-penetrating radar device, which can detect buried objects, and conducted other tests. Rain delayed their efforts on Wednesday.

As well, the Ontario Provincial Police completed an investigation into a 2011 charter yacht trip taken by Mr. Millard in which the boat’s owner spotted blood in the vessel. The OPP said the concerns were “unfounded” and the investigation is now closed.

Mr. Millard, 27, was the last person Ms. Babcock called before she went missing last summer, according to her ex-boyfriend Shawn Lerner. Her phone records show eight calls between Ms. Babcock and Mr. Millard on July 2 and 3. Mr. Lerner previously told The Globe and Mail that he met with Mr. Millard, who initially denied speaking with Ms. Babcock eight times but then said she had asked him for drugs and a place to stay, which he said he declined. Mr. Lerner said he gave the phone records to police, but felt they didn’t follow up on the lead.

Wayne Millard, a former airline pilot who steered the family’s business into aircraft repair, died on Nov. 29, just as he prepared to open the new hangar at the Waterloo airport. His death was deemed a suicide at the time, but the coroner’s investigation remained open six months later and Toronto police are reinvestigating the case. His body was cremated.

Dellen Millard faces charges of first-degree murder, forcible confinement and theft over $5,000 in relation to the death of Mr. Bosma, who went missing after taking two men to test drive his pickup truck on May 6. Mark Smich, 25, was also charged with first-degree murder last week. Lawyers for both men have said they plan to plead not guilty.

The 32-year-old father’s badly burned remains were found at Mr. Millard’s 100-acre property in the municipality of Ayr, Ont., a 20-minute drive from the Waterloo airport. Officers seized a portable livestock incinerator from the property.

Mr. Millard bought the land for $835,000 in cash in May, 2011. He told his real-estate agent that he planned to use it to build a dream home with his fiancée.

Hamilton police are still searching for another suspect. The force finished its search of Mr. Millard’s property last week.

Aaron Jeavons and his wife stopped by the farm Thursday to place a potted flower on the fence. He said they wanted to bring something that would last after seeing that the flowers brought over the last few weeks had wilted. “The darkness here needs some light. There’s nothing but darkness here,” he said, adding that they live in Brantford, close to where Mr. Bosma’s cellphone was located by police shortly after he disappeared.