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Father's testimony at murder trial like plot of 'bad low-budget movie:' Crown

Andrew Berry loved his two young daughters, but he intended to kill them and wielded the knife that took their lives on Christmas Day 2017, the Crown told a B.C. Supreme Court jury in Vancouver during closing submissions Friday.
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Advisory: This story has disturbing, graphic information from a murder trial.

Andrew Berry loved his two young daughters, but he intended to kill them and wielded the knife that took their lives on Christmas Day 2017, the Crown told a B.C. Supreme Court jury in Vancouver during closing submissions Friday.

 Andrew Berry, centre, appears in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.Andrew Berry, centre, appears in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Photograph By Felicity Don, The Canadian Press

“He’s the only person with a motive and the only person with an opportunity to commit the offence. And the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that he is the man who killed Chloe and Aubrey,” prosecutor Patrick Weir told the 12-member jury, which has been sitting since mid-April.

Berry is on trial for the second-degree murders of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey, who were stabbed to death at his Beach Drive apartment. Berry was found with life-threatening injuries, naked, in the bathtub. He has pleaded not guilty to the crimes.

Berry, who took the stand in his own defence, testified about falling deeper and deeper into debt with an Asian loan shark named Paul in 2017. He told the jury that he borrowed $10,000 from Paul at the River Rock casino in Richmond in January 2017 and could not pay it back. He said a rock was thrown through his window and two young Chinese men came to his apartment looking for Paul’s money. They stored drugs in his apartment and took his spare key, he said.

Berry testified that he was tackled and stabbed when he and the girls returned home from a tobogganing trip on Christmas Day. When he regained consciousness, he said, he found Chloe dead in her bed.

Weir urged the jury not to be distracted by speculation, drama and theatrics, or by thinking that any of the Crown witnesses attempted to lie, fabricate, mislead or shape their evidence.

The case isn’t about Berry’s ex-partner, Sarah Cotton, or about Berry’s sister, said Weir. “Neither of those witnesses has any motive to lie or shape their evidence.”

First responders, medical staff, forensic officers, neighbours and Berry’s work colleagues similarly have no motive to lie, Weir told the jury. “And none of them did. All of them came to testify to the best of their ability.”

The prosecutor called the notion of a grand police conspiracy to circumvent Berry’s rights while he was in the hospital merely a distraction.

“This case is about one person, ladies and gentlemen, and that person is Andrew Berry and he is the one person who lied, fabricated and attempted to mislead you.”

Berry has told the jury one clear lie about the events of Dec. 25, 2017, Weir said.

In a three-page note to his sister on Dec. 27, Berry wrote: “I don’t remember what I did but I tried suicide.”

But he told the jury he remembered what happened, telling an preposterous, ridiculous story about being attacked by a dark-skinned man, Weir said. “So he either lied to you or he lied to [his sister] or he lied to both of you. It must be clear to you that he has lied to both you and [his sister.] He did remember what he’d done on Christmas Day. How could he forget? But as with everything in his life, he would not accept responsibility.”

Avoidance of responsibility is part of Berry’s pattern, said Weir. Berry would rather blame Cotton or his mother than take responsibility.

“And now he wants you blame this fictitious Paul or his sister or anyone but himself,” said Weir. “Blame this dark-skinned, non-existent child murderer, blame the police, blame the witnesses, blame the medications he was on.

“Ladies and gentlemen, don’t be distracted, don’t be fooled. This case is about Andrew Berry.”

Berry’s evidence should be wholly rejected, said Weir.

 Chloe Berry (left), 6, and Aubrey Berry, 4, were found dead in a home in Oak Bay, B.C., on Christmas Day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HOChloe Berry (left), 6, and Aubrey Berry, 4, were found dead in a home in Oak Bay, B.C., on Christmas Day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

There’s also no basis to suggest that Berry was in an altered or medically unfit state that would make him incapable of understanding the consequences of his actions, said Weir. He knew that stabbing Chloe 26 times and Aubrey 32 times would kill them.

Although the defence criticized the forensic work, Weir said it’s wrong to think the forensic work was insufficient because it doesn’t tell them which girl was killed first or what happened in suite 103 at 1400 Beach Dr.

Investigators could only work with the leads they had at the time of the murders. How would they know that 18 months later someone’s ability to look through a window blind should have been photographed? asked Weir.

The defence suggested there was a lack of evidence because certain witnesses weren’t called. But there might be good reasons for not calling witnesses. Some might be so traumatized they can’t testify, the prosecutor explained. “It doesn’t mean there’s a gap in the evidence.”

The defence also suggested the Crown should have called rebuttal evidence from witnesses at River Rock casino. “That’s preposterous. How can we call witnesses to prove this man didn’t exist?” said Weir, warning the jury not to be distracted.

The Crown believes the girls were killed in their beds about 8 a.m. on Christmas Day, because they were found in pyjamas, they weren’t wearing underwear or socks and when their bodies were discovered around 6 p.m., they were stiff from rigor mortis. The pathologist found no food in their stomachs and there were unopened presents under the tree.

Berry had no job, no prospects, no money and he had exhausted all other means of credit. There was no one — not the banks, his former employer, his landlord, his sister or his parents — he could turn to for help, said Weir.

“And because he had no money and no resources, he had no hydro, he had no food and he had no presents for the girls to open on Christmas Day. … As the 24th rolled into the 25th, Andrew Berry wallowed in self-pity and anger, believing that his situation was the result of other people’s unfairness to him and not the result of his own bad actions,” said Weir.

He had lost hope and was full of bitterness. For years, he believed he was in a desperate state because of Cotton, Weir told the jury. Berry felt Cotton had used him and kicked him to the curb. She had called the police to allege that he had assaulted her, and she had reported him to the Children’s Ministry to get him out of the house. He believed she used her inheritance and resources to drain him of his money. And he believed she was building a record to use against him and it was coming to a head at noon on Christmas Day, when he was to return the girls to Cotton, said Weir.

In his mind, his mother was every bit as bad as Cotton with her insistent meddling, Weir told the jury. “She had supported Sarah during the assault allegations — you have heard how she called up the Crown to throw in her two bits. She, too, had made allegations against Andrew Berry to the Ministry of Children and Families."

“Something happened that caused him to do the unthinkable,” said the prosecutor.

Maybe Berry decided it would be too hard on his daughters to commit suicide and leave them without his guidance.

Maybe he was thinking of the best way to get back at Cotton and his mother.

“Maybe it was Chloe waking up and asking when she and Aubrey could go to their mother’s and open gifts and see Grandma. Or maybe he realized when he dropped them off he wouldn’t see them for a very long time, if at all. And if he couldn’t have them, Sarah wouldn’t either,” said Weir.

Maybe in a rage, he hit Chloe with her baseball bat, then stabbed her again and again. Aubrey was next. He couldn’t bear to have her know what he’d done so he stabbed her, again and again, Weir said. Then Berry tried to kill himself, stabbing himself in the throat and chest.

“Andrew Berry is the only person who could have caused those injuries to himself,” said Weir.

He got into the bathtub hoping he would bleed out but first responders arrived and saved his life.

Berry was a gambler, but his evidence was like a plot from a bad movie, said the prosecutor.

“There was no Paul and there were no Chinese associates. … The only rational conclusion is that it was not some dark-skinned person who killed Chloe and Aubrey. Ask yourself, does it make sense?”

Two paramedics and two firefighters testified that they heard Berry say: “Kill me,” said Weir.

The defence suggested that Const. Peter Ulanowski, the first police officer on the scene, made a mistake by leaving the door to Berry’s apartment unwatched for five minutes.

“But how could he possibly know at the time he made his first report that 18 months later the defence would suggest that despite the killer being in the suite long enough to attack Berry and kill the girls, undress Berry and draw him a bath, how could he know that during those five minutes the killer would leave?” said Weir.

Despite evidence from neighbours and co-workers at B.C. Ferries that Berry used swear words to describe Cotton, he denied it, said the prosecutor.

All these witnesses can’t be lying or remembering things wrong. And if he didn’t say these things, how would they know about the same things he would write in his suicide note to his sister, said Weir. “The evidence is clear that Mr. Berry would tell just about anyone who would listen about his laundry list of grievances and he denied it because he didn’t want you to know how angry he was,” said Weir.

“There’s significant evidence his anger was seething for years.”

ldickson@timescolonist.com