A retired Saint John police officer could not hold back tears Monday as he recalled the pain of being asked to lie on the stand at the Dennis Oland murder trial.
Retired Staff-Sgt. Mike King repeated his allegation that ignited controversy during the first Oland trial – that his boss in the Saint John police force suggested he alter his testimony.
Once again, as Oland’s second trial is under way in a Saint John courtroom, King said that Inspector Glen McCloskey told him he didn’t have to say in court that McCloskey had visited the crime scene.
King, testifying for the prosecution at Oland’s retrial for the second-degree murder of his father, Richard, told the court he was offended by McCloskey’s request, which he said was made during a private conversation in 2014, before the preliminary inquiry in the case.
“But you were there,” King said he told McCloskey.
“Well you don’t have to tell them that,” King said McCloskey told him.
“I haven’t lied on the stand in 32 years, whether it was a murder or a traffic ticket,” King said, recalling his answer to McCloskey. “I’m not about to start now.”
King told several other officers and close relatives about McCloskey’s request. However, during the first trial, McCloskey denied asking King to alter his testimony. He admitted to visiting the bloody crime scene twice, including once out of curiosity.
King broke down on the stand Monday as defence lawyer Alan Gold asked about McCloskey’s suggestion that King lied because he had an axe to grind with him and the force.
Gold asked King if it was “easy” for him to say what he said about McCloskey. “No,” he sobbed. “Did you enjoy it?” Gold asked. “No,” King said.
McCloskey has yet to testify at the second trial, but may be on the stand later this week.
The large number of police officers who went to the crime scene, often without protective gear, is an issue for the defence at the Oland murder trial. Defence lawyers are accusing Saint John police of failing to secure the crime scene to prevent contamination.
Gold has said so many officers visited the scene to view the body of the slain multi-millionaire, it was like a “sightseeing tour.”
Also on Monday, Saint John Const. Tony Gilbert recounted some of the confusion that surrounded the initial discovery of Oland’s body on the morning of July 7, 2011.
Gilbert said he and another investigator sent to Oland’s uptown Saint John office that morning assumed it was a routine death scene, possibly a heart attack victim.
However, once Gilbert saw the battered body of Oland lying in a pool of blood on the floor of his office, he knew the death was not routine and he and the other officer carefully retraced their steps out of the crime scene.
“I said something like, ‘This isn’t what we thought,“’ Gilbert told the Oland trial.
He said he would not have entered the crime scene if he had known it was a suspicious death.
Even a quick glimpse of Richard Oland’s body spoke volumes about the manner of death. He had been struck over 40 times, mostly on the head, with both a sharp-edged, axelike weapon and a blunt, round hammer.
During his testimony, King said he could “see holes” in Oland’s battered head.
The weapon, or weapons, was never found.
There have been questions at trial about the weapon possibly being a drywall hammer, which has both sharp and blunt sides.
The prosecution contends the businessman and father of three was killed “in a rage.”
Prosecutors have argued that Dennis, Richard Oland’s only son, went to see his father on the evening of July 6, 2011, to ask for financial assistance. Richard Oland was worth an estimated $37-million, while Dennis was deeply in debt.
The defence is arguing that Saint John police botched the investigation.
The retrial resumed Monday following a three-week break for the holidays. Oland, 50, a former investment adviser, was charged in 2013 with the murder of his father and has steadfastly maintained his innocence. His conviction in the first trial was thrown out on appeal.
Meanwhile, fallout from the McCloskey issue continues to be felt in the province.
The head of the New Brunswick Police Commission recently lost his job after the provincial police association accused the commission of a “flawed and unprincipled” investigation of issues surrounding the Oland investigation.