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Court hears RCMP found blood, burning barrel after suspect’s arrest

Forensics detail DNA evidence from accused's farm

CALGARY — A trial has heard that RCMP mounted what they thought was going to be a rescue mission at the home of a man charged in the disappearance of a couple and their five-year-old grandson.

Emergency response officers arrived at Douglas Garland’s farm days after Alvin and Kathy Liknes and Nathan O’Brien vanished from their Calgary home in June 2014.

Court heard Monday that police had hoped that the three were being held hostage at a farm near Airdrie, north of Calgary, and might still be alive.

“We were told we were going to perform a hostage rescue, that there was a possibility there was two or three injured people that required our immediate attention, to rescue them and get them medical aid,” Sgt. Troy Switzer, who was part of the emergency response team as a tactical paramedic, testified Monday.

Switzer said he got involved after officers did a primary search of the property.

“After that, they do a more detailed search, looking for hatchways, hidden doors, booby traps. I was looking for two elderly people and a small child approximately five years old, or any signs they were on that farm,” he said.

“Unfortunately we did not find any bodies that day.”

Switzer said he noted a smouldering burning barrel on the property and did find a black duffle bag containing handcuffs, a hunting knife and a baton in one of the outbuildings.

Garland, 56, was arrested after the three victims disappeared. Their bodies have not been found.

Nathan O’Brien had been sleeping over at his grandparents but when his mother arrived the next morning, all she found were pools of blood.

RCMP forensics expert Sgt. Tim Walker searched a number of outbuildings on the Garland property, as well as a burning barrel that still contained hot embers. The barrel’s contents were separated and sifted into categories.

Officers also searched a pit, which Walker believes was used as a dump site for the burning barrel.

“It was a large debris heap. Initially when we went to look at this area, we found some bone. We thought maybe we had recovered a tooth,” Walker said.

“I know there was a pair of glasses we recovered and so we just … continued to sift through the items and the ash and the debris that was there.”

Walker said police searched two other outbuildings and tested for the presence of blood using a chemical agent called Blue Star.

“There was some fluorescence near a bank of light switches … so there was a possibility of blood in that area,” said Walker, who said swabs for the presence of DNA were taken as well.

He acknowledged under cross-examination that Blue Star can also react with things such as bleach, detergent, metal and some foods and cause a false positive.

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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press