Hunted man behind bars

Rosie Mullaley
Published on August 26, 2011
John William Oliver is escorted into provincial court in St. John’s Thursday, a day after he allegedly led police on a four-hour chase through the St. John’s metro area. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

The man police say led them on a four-hour chase Wednesday won’t be going anywhere soon if the Crown gets its way.

John William Oliver was led into provincial court in St. John’s Thursday constrained by handcuffs and shackles and wearing a white, prison-issued suit.

The 24-year-old appeared frustrated as Judge Gloria Harding read out the long list of charges against him.

“Do you understand the charges?” the judge asked Oliver in a routine question.

“No!” Oliver said, shaking his head.

“But do you understand what I read to you?” the judge clarified.

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.

Charges include theft of a vehicle, dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, evading police, damage to property over $5,000, theft of jewelry over $5,000, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and falsely pretending to have money when hiring a taxi.

He had been wanted on warrants for charges of robbery from a man and uttering threats in connection with a July 19 incident.

“Your Honour, the Crown is opposed to Mr. Oliver’s release (from jail),” prosecutor Mike Murray told Harding.

A bail hearing is scheduled for today.

Oliver was arrested around 2:20 p.m. Wednesday in a new subdivision off Kenmount Road, at the conclusion of what police say had been a lengthy and challenging manhunt.

It began at around 10 a.m., when Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers began pursuing a pickup truck, which was reportedly stolen from the Wyatt Boulevard area in Mount Pearl.

Police said Oliver was driving, and didn’t stop and he sped through residential streets towards the Southern Shore.

Patrol officers abandoned the chase because of public safety when the driver began weaving in and out of traffic, reaching speeds of more than 100 kilometres an hour. Police then followed the vehicle at a safe distance.

Oliver reportedly hit an RCMP cruiser on Robert E. Howlett Memorial Drive before heading back to St. John’s, where he struck a parked vehicle on Cornwall Avenue with a woman and two children inside.

Neither the RCMP officers in the cruiser, nor the woman and children in the car, were seriously hurt.

Oliver was then said to have fled into the woods off Kenmount Road.

RNC officers and police dog Arek trailed him through the woods for three hours, over 10 kilometres of thick woods and waist-deep bog.

He was captured around 4 p.m.

Const. Suzanne FitzGerald hadn’t been fully debriefed by investigating officers when she was contacted Thursday, but said around noon — two hours into the police hunt — Oliver stopped at the Avalon Mall, where he reportedly stole two diamond rings from Bogart’s Jewelry.

He was said to have gotten a taxi either to the mall or from the mall without paying the fare. The matter is still under investigation.

Oliver is no stranger to the courts. He has a lengthy criminal past, including convictions for similar activity.

In 2009, he was sentenced to two years in jail with a three-year driving prohibition after he was convicted of dangerous driving, failing to stop a motor vehicle and breaching probation.

Those charges were in connection with an October 2008 incident when he was behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle that flipped over in Mount Pearl.

The then 21-year-old spent two days at the Health Sciences Centre being treated for his injuries.

The RNC had pursued the SUV in a high-speed chase from Cornwall Avenue to Hamilton Avenue.

Officers called off the pursuit when Oliver continued to speed down Topsail Road. He was also sentenced to a three-year jail term in November 2006 on nine charges, including break and enter, theft over $5,000 and assault causing bodily harm. In July 2005, he got six months behind bars on more than a dozen charges, including theft under $5,000, damage to property and break and enter.