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Inmate beat accused murderer Steve Bragg with a guitar until it smashed, St. John's court hears

William John Oliver is escorted from courtroom No. 7 at provincial court in St. John's Friday afternoon, having been formally charged in connection with the beating of accused murderer Steve Bragg earlier in the week.
William John Oliver is escorted from courtroom No. 7 at provincial court in St. John's after he was formally charged in connection with the beating of accused murderer Steve Bragg. - FILE/Tara Bradbury

William John Oliver sentenced to 575 days behind bars for multiple crimes, including two violent attacks

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

William John Oliver gave no insight into what had provoked the altercation between him and accused murderer Steve Bragg one night last April, though he admitted beating Bragg in the face with a guitar until the instrument broke.

Likewise, he had nothing to say in regards to his attack on a woman outside her St. John's home in December 2017, in which he punched and kicked her in the face.

Oliver did, however, admit to both incidents as well as breaching multiple court orders over the past year, earning himself a sentence of a year and a half behind bars when he made a quiet appearance in provincial court in St. John's last week.

The court heard Oliver had shown up at the woman's home on Dec. 7, 2017, ringing her doorbell, kicking her door and demanding to speak to her. When she declined a conversation and asked him to leave, he refused. When the woman came outside to insist Oliver leave, he punched her twice in the face, causing her to fall to the ground, then kicked her before running away.

The woman, who suffered a cut above her eyebrow, major swelling of her face and pain in her head, called police, who were unable to locate Oliver and issued a warrant for his arrest. He was apprehended later that month.

Steve Bragg.
Steve Bragg.

Oliver was subsequently released to await a court date, but failed to appear before a judge on the scheduled day, and missed two appointments with his probation officer. His last arrest happened this past December, after police received an anonymous call from someone giving details of where they might find Oliver, who was wanted under another warrant at that point.

Oliver was on remand in HMP when he attacked Bragg last April 22.

Bragg, 36, is being held in custody pending a first-degree murder trial for the death of Victoria Head, which is scheduled to happen in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court over six weeks in January.

Crown prosecutor Jason House told the court surveillance video footage from inside the prison shows Oliver entering a cell that night, holding a bag. There appears to be an altercation, then Bragg is seen exiting the cell and stumbling to the floor. Oliver is then seen on the video exiting with a guitar, striking Bragg repeatedly until the instrument smashes.

Bragg was taken to the Health Sciences Centre, where RNC investigators spoke to him the next day. He told police he had been playing the guitar in his cell when a man entered.

“He didn’t disclose the name of the male, not because he didn't know the male’s name, but because he didn’t want to tell police,” House said.

“He stated that police could review the video themselves and identify who the male was. He was ultimately identified as Mr. Oliver.”

Bragg suffered injuries requiring stitches to his nose, eye and the back of his head.

House suggested a total jail term of between 23 and 24 months for Oliver for all the charges, noting Oliver has an “exhaustive” criminal record with multiple convictions for violent crimes.

Defence lawyer Jason Edwards suggested a period of 16 months incarceration, acknowledging Oliver’s criminal record and the seriousness of the assaults. Edwards noted Oliver had been disciplined inside HMP for the attack on Bragg, spending 10 days in solitary confinement.

Judge Mike Madden ultimately handed Oliver a total sentence of 575 days in prison, followed by a year of probation with mandatory counselling. He said Oliver's guilty pleas had spared the matters from going to trial, but stressed the need for deterrence, since Oliver’s previous jail sentences for violence offences hadn’t stopped him from reoffending.

Madden said Oliver’s serious attacks on two people in separate incidents “shows a rage and a level of considerable violence.”

With credit for the time Oliver has spent on remand, he has 359 days left to serve behind bars.

Oliver had been facing more charges of breaching court orders, uttering threats, common assault and mischief, which House withdrew as part of a plea deal.

Oliver has been ordered to have no contact with the woman he assaulted, nor Bragg.

Bragg is alleged to have murdered 36-year-old Victoria (Vicky) Head, a native of Placentia and a mother of one, in the fall of 2017. Her body was located near O’Brien’s Farm Road in the centre of St. John’s on Nov. 11 of that year.

The next day, police issued a missing person appeal for Bragg, who was located a day after that. Bragg was originally charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was upgraded to first-degree murder two months later, after police unearthed new evidence in the case.

Police say Head and Bragg knew each other.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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