Warning: This article contains graphic content.
Moments after taking the stand at his second-degree murder trial, Andrew Berry was asked by his defence lawyer whether he killed his two young daughters, six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey.
Berry replied: “No, I did not.”
The Victoria man has pleaded not guilty in the case, and is now taking the stand in his own defence.
The bodies of the two young girls were found in their beds in Berry’s apartment on Christmas Day 2017, after they were not returned to their mother’s custody as scheduled. A pathologist testified both children had been stabbed multiple times, and Chloe had also suffered blunt force trauma to the head. The jury heard testimony Berry was found naked and injured in the bathtub, and was taken to hospital.
In an opening statement to the jury, defence lawyer Kevin McCullough said he expects they will hear Berry say he was attacked in his home on the day his daughters were found dead, which left him at times unconscious as a result. McCullough said he anticipates Berry will talk about waking up that morning with his daughters, opening presents, and going out to play in the snow for most of the day, before returning home and being assaulted.
Berry testified about how he was involved in gambling for many years, spending tens of thousands on sports betting and baccarat at the River Rock casino in Richmond. He told the jury he ended up owing $25,000 to a loan shark named Paul. He said he did not know the man’s last name.
He testified he had trouble paying back the debt, and ended up agreeing on two separate occasions to store a bag at his house for Paul. He told the jury he assumed the bags contained drugs. He said two young men came by his apartment both times and hid the bag in his bedroom closet, once while the girls were at his home. He also told the court he ended up giving a spare set of house keys to the men, at Paul’s request.
Berry testified the men dropped off the last bag in November, and never came to pick it up before Dec. 25. He told the jury he asked to be in protective custody after his arrest, fearful Paul may try to get him.
By the fall of 2017, Berry testified his stress level over his financial problems was “high” and he couldn’t pay his rent or hydro. He told the jury he tried to kill himself on Nov. 28.
Berry’s voice broke and he became emotional at times when testifying about his two young daughters, after being asked by McCullough to describe their personalities, activities he took part in with them, and favourite books. McCullough told the jury Berry “loved his daughters incredibly” and was a dedicated father.
The girls’ mother, Sarah Cotton, also took the stand earlier on at the trial of her former common-law partner. She testified about sharing custody with Berry after they separated in 2013, and told the jury: “Andrew did not communicate with me face to face.”
She testified when she dropped the children off at Berry’s place days before Christmas, she noticed the lights were out and remarked to her daughters that it looked like their father wasn’t home.
Cotton told the court her daughter Chloe said he was there, and that: “We use flashlights. It’s just like camping.” Cotton testified she became concerned Berry’s power was off, but did not ask him about it at that moment.
“I didn’t want to provoke him in front of the girls,” she said.
Cotton told the court she later emailed Berry about her concerns regarding the hydro, but never got a response.
Cotton testified the girls were supposed to be returned to her on Christmas Day, but when they didn’t appear she tried in vain to contact Berry, conducted a search and then ultimately called police.
In the crown’s opening statement in April, prosecutor Clare Jennings told the court Berry had animosity towards Cotton and his parents, and was in a “negative financial position”.
The proceedings are also being streamed live to a Victoria courthouse for public viewing, where Cotton has been watching. Berry’s testimony is set to continue Thursday.
CTV News Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber is covering the case live. Follow along through tweets from court: