The burn barrel on the farm where the Crown believes Douglas Garland disposed of his victims was left smouldering overnight after the initial police raid, court heard Monday. Staff Sgt. Timothy Walker testified he went to the Airdrie farm north of Calgary the morning of July 5, 2014. An RCMP emergency response team had raided the property the previous evening, hoping to find the missing Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson, Nathan O’Brien, alive.
“We discovered a burn barrel, it was a large tank, if you will,” Walker said of the metal cylinder found smouldering when police arrived the previous evening.
“It was still smouldering,” said Walker, a member of the RCMP’s forensic identification section at the time, who arrived at the Garland farm around 9 a.m.
“At approximately 11:10 a.m. I extinguished … this burn barrel using a garden hose which I found at the scene,” he said.
Garland, 56, faces three charges of first-degree murder in the June 30, 2014, disappearances of the grandparents and Nathan from the couple’s Parkhill home in southwest Calgary.
Walker said about four and a half hours after he extinguished the embers, he and members of his team sifted through the ashes looking for potential evidence.
“It was a lot of embers, ash, that type of debris,” he told Crown prosecutor Shane Parker. “We proceeded to examine the items in the burn barrel.”
A lot of the items consisted of kitchen garbage.
“We found some bone,” Walker said. “We thought we may have recovered a tooth, and there was a pair of glasses we recovered.”
Anything of note was handed over to the Calgary Police Service, he said.
Walker also examined two of the outbuildings on the Garland property for evidence.
He found two areas on walls next to light switches which tested positively for blood.
“I took a swab of the area, a DNA swab,” he said of the first suspected stain he found.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Jim Lutz, Walker admitted the chemical testing was a “presumptive test” for blood and could have resulted in a false positive from other materials, such as bleach.
Meanwhile, one of the Mounties who raided the property hoping to find the victims alive said the emergency response team’s exercise was rushed because of the urgency of the situation.
Sgt. Troy Switzer said the team usually takes three to four hours before making a move on a site.
“Everyone would get ready, we’d do rehearsals,” Switzer told Parker. “That wasn’t the case this time. These people (needed) our immediate assistance.”
Mounties stormed the property using an armoured vehicle, which can be manned by up to 11 officers, including a sniper in a turret, but there weren’t enough officers available to fill in during the July 4, 2014, exercise, Switzer said.
He told Parker that despite their hopes, the Likneses and Nathan were nowhere to be found.
“Unfortunately, we did not find any bodies that day.”
Jurors heard a Calgary police cadaver dog reacted to several locations on the Garland farm indicating the possible presence of human remains on the property.
Two handlers for Sully said the dog was specifically trained to detect human blood, tissue or bodies.
The handlers then passed on Sully’s findings to other investigators.
BY KEVIN MARTIN