SAINT JOHN, N.B. — The former deputy chief of the Saint John police force has told the Dennis Oland murder trial he did not ask an officer to lie about his visits to the bloody crime scene where Richard Oland’s body was found.
Retired deputy chief Glen McCloskey was on the stand Thursday, day 17 of the Oland trial, where he firmly denied the allegation that he asked a fellow officer to conceal the fact McCloskey made two entries to the crime scene, one out of nothing more than “professional curiosity.”
The amount of foot traffic going in and out of the small Saint John office where the bludgeoned body of multi-millionaire Richard Oland was found on July 7, 2011, is a key issue for defence lawyers.
“Isn’t it possible you could have stepped on a small piece of evidence, something you did not see, while you were in the office?” asked defence lawyer Alan Gold.
“You are correct,” McCloskey answered, admitting he was not wearing protective clothing during his two visits to the scene.
Dennis Oland, 50, is on trial for the second-degree murder of his father on July 6, 2011. This is a retrial. Oland was convicted by a jury in 2015 but the verdict was set aside on appeal and a new trial ordered.
Earlier this week, retired Staff/Sgt. Mike King repeated an allegation he made during the first trial that McCloskey asked him not to reveal his visits to the crime scene.
“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.”
McCloskey was firm in his answers to both Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers on Thursday — he said he did not try to influence King’s testimony.
“I would never ever ask anybody to lie or change their testimony,” he said.
McCloskey had a different recollection of his routes in and out of the crime scene compared to an account earlier this week by Sgt. Greg Oram, who said the former deputy chief was half-sitting on a table in the office, with one leg dangling, casually observing the scene.
McCloskey said he did not sit or lean on anything in the crime scene.
“Everyone’s memory is different,” he said when asked how he could explain the discrepancy.
There also may be a problem with false memory.
During his testimony on Thursday, former lead investigator Rick Russell, now retired from the force, said he remembered talking to another officer about a back door exit located near Oland’s office.
Russell said Const. Stephen Davidson told him he had checked the back door and found it locked. However, both the prosecution and the defence say the two were never together at the crime scene and that conversation could not have happened.
“Could it just be wishful thinking?”asked Gold, noting the exit is a bone of contention since police paid little attention to it.
“Obviously I am mistaken,” Russell said. “I apologize to the court.”
Conflicting testimony from police officers is adding to questions about the conduct of the force during the investigation of the high-profile murder. Earlier this week and during the preliminary hearing, defence lawyers raised the possibility that police had “tunnel vision” and discounted all other possibilities after quickly deciding Oland was the killer.
The trial has heard that police identified Oland as the prime suspect within hours of his father’s body being found. He is the last known person to have seen Richard Oland alive.
McCloskey, who was an inspector with criminal investigations in 2011, told the trial he should not have made repeated visits to the crime scene. He said the force tightened up procedures after the mistakes made during the Oland investigation came to light.
McCloskey retired before the allegations made against him could be fully considered by the New Brunswick Police Commission. He said he retired because he was tired of the “unprincipled” Police Act investigation, he had health issues and his son died suddenly in 2017.