Dennis Oland described strained relationship with father during murder trial
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, December 17, 2015 6:33AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 17, 2015 4:17PM EST
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- Dennis Oland had what he called a formal, "old-school" relationship with his father Richard. He told police his father could be rigid and impatient, even erupting in anger over Christmas dinner.
"He wasn't the kind of guy who was going to say every day I love you, even though from time to time he might do that," Dennis Oland told his lawyer, Gary Miller, as he testified in his own defence during his trial for his father's second-degree murder.
"It's a Father Knows Best sort of thing. There's a properness about it."
The relationship became a focus of Oland's murder trial, with the Crown suggesting the younger Oland killed his father in a rage over money or his father's affair with a married woman. The eight-man, four woman jury entered its second day of deliberations Thursday.
Dennis Oland grew up in Rothesay, N.B., a quiet, well-kept community in the Kennebecasis Valley east of Saint John known for its heritage homes and some well-to-do residents.
The Olands are an establishment family in the business history of the Maritimes, having founded Moosehead Breweries. Richard Oland left the family business in 1981 following disagreements with his brother, Derek, but became a multimillionaire businessman and member of the Order of Canada.
As the only boy in the family, Dennis, an investment adviser, said he shouldered most of the pressure from his father.
During a lengthy interview with police on the evening of July 7, 2011 -- just hours after the bludgeoned body of Richard Oland, 69, was found in his Saint John office -- Dennis Oland said his father was known as a guy who could be really difficult to get along with.
But he said that even though his father had a rigid side, there was another side to him too.
"My dad was probably one of the most interesting people I ever met. He was so engaging," Oland told the court.
He described Richard Oland as adventurous and wild when it came to skiing, sailing and driving, and that he encouraged his children to be the same way.
Oland said he was like his father in some ways, but there were differences too. His father was particular and could be very impatient, he said.
"You would have to deal with that impatience. Sometimes he wasn't nice about it, and so you had to deal with it," he said.
Oland said he would sometimes just walk away and an hour later it would be forgotten. He said there were never any grudges.
During his interview with police, Oland said the biggest fight he had with his father was just a few years earlier. He said his father "blew a gasket" when Dennis was given the task of pouring rum over the cake at Christmas dinner and lighting it on fire, but the flame went out before he could get it to the table.
"There was a big fight over that ... it was ugly," he said.
But during the trial, Dennis Oland said their relationship in the last few years of Richard Oland's life was probably at its best, as the two of them shared a keen interest in the genealogy of the Oland family.
He said his father would get excited to tell him about his racing, or the new sailboat he had under construction.
During cross examination, the Crown tried to paint a more strained relationship -- one between a son in desperate financial shape and a father, valued at more than $36-million, who was enjoying life's luxuries.
The Crown pointed out that Dennis Oland was making monthly, interest-only payments of $1,667 to his father on a $500,000 advance he had gotten on his inheritance in order to keep his home during a divorce. His chequing account was in a negative position. His credit card was about $5,000 over its limit, there was no balance in his CIBC accounts, his RRSP account had been all but drained, and he had a line of credit that was at or beyond $163,000. As well, he had bounced the latest cheque to his father.
The Crown suggested that Oland could have killed his father in a rage over finances, or the fact his father had been in an eight-year affair with Diana Sedlacek.
But Oland brushed off the suggestions, saying that his father had always been supportive financially, offering to fund his divorce without being asked.
Dennis Oland said that as an investment adviser, he was used to down periods in the markets.
"I've been down this road before. The down cycles don't last that long," he said.
As for the affair, Dennis told the court that while he didn't like it, he never discussed the matter with his father.
Oland was very matter-of-fact in his description of his father and their relationship, only once showing emotion - when he said he missed his father, and loved him.