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Oland murder linked to big debt, police believe

New Brunswick businessman Richard Oland was killed in his office in Saint John between July 6 and 7, 2011.

Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal

Police believe that the murder of prominent New Brunswick businessman Richard Oland is connected to a man in "financial difficulty" who owed the victim more than half a million dollars, newly unsealed court documents say.

When the 69-year-old businessman was killed last year in his office in the heritage district of Saint John, N.B., a man working one floor below told police he heard "exceptionally loud, quick, pounding thumps" coming from above, the documents say.

The documents are search-warrant applications Saint John police made in the days after Mr. Oland's slaying last year.

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A heavily redacted version of the warrants was released in August at the request of the Saint John Telegraph-Journal and the CBC. More details were unsealed on Friday, but some names and identifying details are subject to a publication ban.

The main investigator, Constable Stephen Davidson, interviewed a person of interest, a man "on the edge financially" who was indebted to Mr. Oland for more than $600,000, the warrant applications say.

The man knew Mr. Oland, and they had a common interest that could have justified a meeting between them, the court documents say.

Mr. Oland, a scion of the Moosehead beer dynasty, had left the family business and was running his own investment firm when he was killed between July 6 and 7, 2011, in his second-floor office at 52 Canterbury St., near the waterfront.

The court documents say that Mr. Oland's secretary, Maureen Adamson, left her boss at his office on July 6.

Her husband, William, was parked outside waiting to pick her up. As he sat in his car, Mr. Adamson saw someone matching the man's description enter the building, the court documents say.

"He did not see this person's face and therefore did not recognize him. The male was carrying a red bag, similar to the environmentally friendly grocery shopping bags; bag was not empty but not overly full nor heavy," the police said in their warrant application.

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Video-surveillance footage recorded at another location supported Mr. Adamson's recollection of the man's appearance.

However, the man claimed he was dressed in a different way that day when police interviewed him, the warrant applications say.

"Until I went over to his [Richard Oland's] office, it was a very typical day," the man said in a video deposition he gave Constable Davidson.

Later that day, the building's owner, John Ainsworth, heard what sounded like shuffling noises from Mr. Oland's office, the documents say.

Another witness, Anthony Shaw, said there were six or seven "exceptionally loud, quick, pounding thumps … similar to banging on a wall," while he worked a floor below Mr. Oland's office.

The court documents say that Ms. Adamson discovered Mr. Oland's body the next morning.

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Mr. Oland was not reported missing that night because, according to relatives, it was not uncommon for him not to come home without notifying anyone.

His wife of 46 years, Constance Oland, the warrants say, "describes Richard Oland as controlling, as well as verbally and emotionally abusive. … Since Richard Oland left Moosehead Breweries in the 1980s, he has never been the same."

Mrs. Oland learned that something was wrong when a friend, real-estate agent Diane Sedlacek, phoned to tell her that police cars were outside the Canterbury office.

Ms. Sedlacek told police she regularly called and texted Mr. Oland because she had been in a romantic relationship with him for eight years.

"She believed most of the family was aware of this," she told police, according to the warrants.

Previously released documents show that the police applied for a warrant to get a copy of the victim's financial records from a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce branch.

Police also searched a car, looking for DNA swabs and traces of blood and seizing several bills and receipts.

Until this summer, Saint John police had said only that Mr. Oland was the victim of a homicide, without explaining whether they believed his killing was intentional.

However, the unsealing of the warrants has since revealed that investigators believe that "person or persons unknown … did commit murder on the person of Richard Henry Oland."

The cause of death remains blacked out from the warrant documents, but a relative has previously told The Globe and Mail that investigators asked him whether he owned a drywall hammer – a small construction tool with an axe-like blade.

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