WARNING: This story contains disturbing details about a double murder.
The first day of the sentencing hearing for the Oak Bay father who murdered his two young daughters on Christmas day in 2017 began in the Victoria courthouse on Monday.
Andrew Berry’s defense lawyer told the court that Berry maintains he did not kill four-year-old Aubrey and six-year-old Chloe, despite being found guilty by a jury after an almost six-month trial.
Berry sat in the defendant box dressed in a red sweatshirt and pants from the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre. The back two rows of the courtroom were filled with family and friends. Berry, head tilted down, spent the morning’s proceedings writing on a yellow legal pad and only glanced at those in the gallery when his handcuffs were done back up as he exited the room.
The proceedings began with Crown laying out the aggravating factors that should be taken into account when determining a proper sentence for Berry. Crown counsel Clare Jennings called Berry’s alternate tale of owing money to a loan shark named Paul “completely fabricated” and “self-serving.”
A break was called around noon for Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper to determine what facts had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and would be taken into account.
Jennings told the courts that the jury “clearly rejected that a dark-skinned man killed” the girls, along with injuring Berry in the process. Gropper agreed with Crown following the break, stating that it “defies logic” that the loan shark would kill the children and leave Berry alive.
Evidence shown at trial determined the girls were killed where they were sleeping, in their own home, which Gropper said would be considered an aggravating factor. There was blood inside the suite, but no blood was found anywhere outside the suite.
Chloe was struck in the head and stabbed 26 times, Aubrey was stabbed 32 times. Berry was found naked, in a bathtub full of water with wounds to his neck, which the judge found to be self-inflicted. A small pink bat was found tangled in Chloe’s hair and a knife, similar to a set found in Berry’s kitchen, was found on the floor next to Aubrey’s body. A sheath for the same knife was found on the kitchen floor. Neither girl had defensive wounds, which both Crown and Gropper stated is consistent with them being rendered unconscious prior to being murdered. Berry would have had to turn both girls over at least twice, said Gropper, which was evident by the stab wounds on the front and back of the body.
It is unclear which girl was killed first.
“Berry would have seen the effects of his stabbings and then moved on to the other bedroom and done the same thing to the second daughter. A period of time must have elapsed,” said Jennings, adding that Crown did not know whether all the wounds were inflicted to each child one at a time, or whether Berry went back and forth between the two.
Berry, who had quit his job at BC Ferries, was at the end of his rope financially stated Gropper.
“He had burned bridges with his parents and couldn’t go to them … he spent all his pension funds to his knowledge and had no further funds coming, he had maxed out all his credit and was in fact in overdraft in all of his accounts,” explained Jennings.
Berry murdered Aubrey and Chloe, at least in part, because he wished to hurt Sarah Cotton, the girls’ mother said Gropper.
“Berry believed, for good reason, that he wouldn’t get the girls back when he handed them over to Sarah on Christmas day,” said the judge. The hydro in Berry’s apartment had been turned off and he admitted he had no money to get it turned back on.
“Whether Berry chose to kill Chloe and Aubrey to protect them from his suicide … or to stop Sarah Cotton from having [the girls], it is very clear that the motivation for all his actions on Dec. 25, 2017 stemmed in part from the animosity towards Sarah Cotton,” said Gropper.
Berry paid little attention to the judge as she spoke during the second half of Monday’s proceedings, keeping his head down to write on the paper in front of him.
The hearing is expected to last four days, with victim impact statements starting on Tuesday.