By Matthew Sitler
Warning: Graphic content
Chilling photos of where Toronto businessman Paul Maasland’s body was found have been shown to jurors at his alleged killer’s murder trial in Bracebridge.
Invantage Inc. owner Todd Howley is charged with first degree murder in the death of his former business partner. During the third day of testimony the Crown outlined the macabre discoveries made at a public boat launch on Morrow Drive Monday, August 30th 2010.
That morning, a 27 year veteran of the Pickering Fire Department, Warren Johnson, had decided to launch his boat there for a fishing trip. While backing his truck and trailer into the launch, he thought he saw what appeared to be piles of garbage.
Stopping the truck to remove it before putting his boat in the water, Johnson made a shocking discovery.
“I saw a knee cap,” he told court. “That’s the first thing I saw.”
Johnson yelled at the mass and when there wasn’t movement, the reality of what he was facing started to sink in.
Body laid out on beach
Through photos and videos taken by police, court saw that Maasland’s body was laid out on the beach close to the water’s edge facing up.
His legs and feet were covered by a black garbage bag, as were his head and arms, which were stretched out over his head in the direction of the water.
The remaining portion of the torso, the bare chest and his green shorts covered mid-section were exposed to the air.
There appeared to be bruising in the chest area, as well as a red line burn across the width of the chest and what appeared to be a deep bloody gash on the chest’s right side.
A bloodstained rope lay on the garbage bag covering the arms and head, which police later determined had recently been cut from a larger section.
Maasland’s black polo shirt was covered by the top garbage bag, as it had been pulled up over his head. The pockets in his shorts were turned out.
In the space between the arms and the water’s edge, two pairs of knit gloves were found – one pair was pink, the other blue.
Further out into the water lay a Swiss Army watch. Two purple tote bags, plus a clear plastic bin lid that had a reddish brown stain on it, had been left to the right of the body.
Johnson was able to go and tell a resident who lived nearby. Police were called, then he and the neighbour returned to the scene – they were later joined by the neighbour’s wife and they waited for police.
The OPP investigation started in earnest with forensics arriving later that morning, following the arrival of local officers.
OPP Forensics Identification officer Brenda Thomas testified that upon lifting the gloves from the scene, she held them out in order to drain them as they were wet.
Like the garbage bags on the body, a red fluid drained from both sets of gloves.
The body was finally removed from the location at 4:48pm.
But by that time the investigation into Maasland’s disappearance had been gathering steam in other jurisdictions.
The day prior, an employee at Chattem Inc. a business located at 2220 Argentia Road in Mississauga had noticed a blue Subaru Forrester that had been left in a handicapped spot in the business’s parking lot.
The next day other employees noticed the out-of-place vehicle too.
These employees described what appeared to be blood on the steering wheel and gear shift, bloodstains on the outside back bumper and a smudge of blood on the rear hatch door.
A piece of what appeared to be particle board or woodchip was on the centre back bumper too, stuck in the blood. Sand particles were also mixed in with most of the exterior blood marks and were present in the vehicle’s right rear passenger foot well and trunk area.
Police secured the scene and transferred the vehicle to an investigation bay – they were able to identify it as Maasland’s.
Crown Attorney Mike Flosman said that during the investigation police were able to canvas 41 different area taxi cab companies in the hopes that a driver could provide evidence as to who left the vehicle at the spot and when.
He also told jurors police had determined that the suspect Howley would not have been able to get to his Oakville address from the location via bus or train within the relevant timeframes.
The taxi canvassing came up empty handed, but Flosman said the investigation soon shifted to other avenues, with police learning that Howley, back in 2007-2008, had opened an account at VWR International, a business that sold items via the Internet.
Account holders could also pick up ordered items in person at the company’s sales offices, of which there were three.
One was located just 250 metres from where Maasland’s 2009 Subaru had been parked and Howley knew an employee who worked there.
“It was their sole Ontario office,” said Flosman.