Trial hears B.C. murder suspect describe 'perfect' day before daughters' deaths
Hours before he says he woke up to find his two young daughters dead, the Vancouver Island man accused of killing them testified at his trial Thursday they were enjoying Christmas together.
Andrew Berry has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder in the deaths of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey Berry, whose bodies were found on Christmas Day 2017 in Berry’s Oak Bay apartment.
Crown’s theory is that Berry killed his daughters and tried to commit suicide because he was depressed over his extreme debt and inability to pay rent, which threatened his custody arrangement.
But Berry told the court Thursday he was happy with his daughters on Christmas morning and the day before, when Berry gave the girls sleds as early Christmas presents.
“It was just too perfect,” Berry said when describing the family’s Christmas Eve together, which was spent tobogganing in the rare Oak Bay snowfall.
On Christmas morning, Berry told the court the girls opened their stockings and gifts, had breakfast and went back out into the snow with their sleds.
Berry let Aubrey and Chloe play until noon, which is when they were due to return to their mother Sarah Cotton’s house — but then he decided to take them back out again that afternoon.
“I knew I would get in a bit of trouble with Sarah,” Berry said, but figured if the girls were back with Cotton by dinnertime it would be OK.
Berry let his daughters play until around 3:30 p.m., he said, choking back tears as he recalled their way back to Berry’s apartment.
“They’re happy, they’re good,” Berry told the court. “They don’t want to go back.”
Defence is arguing Aubrey and Chloe were killed after loan sharks broke into Berry’s apartment later that day and assaulted Berry over an unpaid gambling debt.
The court has heard Berry was found naked in his bathtub with stab wounds, which prosecutors allege he had given himself after murdering the girls.
Gambling debt escalates
Thursday marked Berry’s second day of testimony in his defence, which began by him saying he did not kill his daughters.
He had previously told the court he was addicted to gambling and had eventually amassed a $25,000 debt to a loan shark named “Paul.”
Difficulties in paying that debt led to Berry agreeing to let “Paul” store at least two bags at his apartment.
By the fall of 2017, associates linked to “Paul” had a spare set of keys to Berry’s home.
The outstanding debt had led to other disturbing incidents early in 2017, Berry said Wednesday, including a rock thrown through his apartment window.
Berry said he later got a phone call from “Paul” asking Berry if he had received his “present.”
Last month, Cotton had testified she had seen the broken window and became concerned about the girls’ well-being.
Berry told the court Thursday he saw an email that Cotton had sent a friend in May of that year, writing she was worried Berry was “in a very bad place and may have people after him” due to his gambling.
Berry testified he was stressed over the debt to “Paul” and his inability to pay it back in full, finally reaching a breaking point at the end of November.
He wrote a drunken suicide note, which Berry said was meant to get his sister to blame Cotton for his death.
His attempt to hang himself was unsuccessful, Berry said, adding he woke up sore the next morning.
As December began, Berry said he committed himself to restarting his life and going back to work.
He planned to travel to Vancouver to negotiate an extension of his gambling debt with “Paul,” but called off the trip because of parenting duties.
His money problems continued, peaking when power was cut off at his apartment for two weeks until Dec. 21. The girls would still spend time at Berry’s home, however, describing it as “camping.”
Cotton has testified she also heard her daughters describe time at the apartment that way, furthering her concerns.
Berry’s testimony is expected to continue Friday.
Defence has argued police immediately suspected Berry for the killings after finding the crime scene during a welfare check on the girls, allowing the real killer to escape.
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