Andrew Berry felt upset, frustrated and helpless because of his lack of access to his children and cursed their mother, Sarah Cotton, one of his closest friends testified Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court.
“He would vent to me: ‘I’m supposed to see the kids Saturday or Sunday, but she says ‘No she’s keeping them.’ He would call her names,” said Darin Guenette, B.C. Ferries manager of public affairs.
“In extreme cases, where he was really frustrated at not seeing the kids, there were lots of curses. … He just really wanted to see his kids.”
Berry has been charged with the second-degree murders of his six-year-old daughter Chloe and four-year-old daughter Aubrey on Christmas Day 2017. He has pleaded not guilty to the crimes.
Guenette, who started working at B.C. Ferries in 2010, met Berry through work. The two men became close because of their shared interests in sports. Berry talked to him when he was dating Cotton, and after the birth of their first child.
“It seemed like there were difficulties in their partnership,” Guenette testified.
Berry specifically mentioned one woman he disliked who had been friends with Cotton when he first started dating her.
“She was manipulative and cold and was in the process of separating from someone she was in a relationship with. Andrew noticed she was coming back into Sarah’s life. He’d seen emails and shared one with me. It seemed the email was coaching Sarah on ways to push Andrew out of her life,” he recalled.
When Berry told him Cotton was pregnant for a second time, Guenette was surprised.
“They had been having problems right from when Chloe was young. It didn’t seem like the kind of relationship where they would naturally be ready to have another child. But he told me they took a trip to San Diego. It was a pleasant trip. They were getting along. He thought maybe things were turning around.”
Berry told his friend it seemed like Cotton wanted another child and when that goal was met, their personal relationship was going sour again.
Guenette recalled Berry telling him that Cotton called Oak Bay police to report that Berry had assaulted her. Berry told him that he and Cotton had been arguing as they got undressed for bed. During the argument Berry threw his belt across the room at Cotton, but it did not hit her.
The trial has heard that Berry was arrested and placed on conditions that required him to move out of the family home in September 2013.
Guenette helped him move into an apartment on Beach Drive.
“Did he say how he felt about the police incident?” asked prosecutor Clare Jennings.
“I know he was surprised. I know he was frustrated,” Guenette replied.
“When Berry retold the story, he was almost surprised that somebody thought he was doing something wrong. There was a real frustration. He didn’t feel like he was in control of what was happening.”
Berry was also frustrated by his financial situation. He told Guenette that he was paying half the mortgage and his rent.
“It was financially difficult. He would rather have been living there. … He was really unhappy about the situation.”
Berry told Guenette that his parents did not support him when he complained about his difficulty getting access to the girls. They seemed to support Sarah, said Guenette.
Berry did get advice and support from his sister, who is an RCMP officer, said Guenette, adding that it was obvious the two were close.
“After he went to the police station, he told his sister what happened. And she said: ‘You should never have gone down there,’ ” he recalled Berry telling him.
Berry appeared flabbergasted when he told Guenette that Cotton was accusing him of touching the girls inappropriately.
“He said: ‘This is just the lowest of the low. It’s another thing she’s doing to keep me from my kids.’ ”
Berry complained that Cotton had a much healthier financial situation with more assets and more money.
“There was a strong imbalance that was grinding away at him. He said she had the leverage financially to wear him down, push him out of her life,” Guenette testified.
Berry told Guenette that he wanted to sell the house, but Cotton refused. He believed she was just waiting him out, financially draining him, Guenette testified.
Berry also believed that she was trying to get him to give up and go away.
“He was being ground up. … It was just one frustration after another.”
Berry often talked to him about the activities he would do with his daughters, like going to the park or going skating. He wanted to focus on quality time with them, said Guenette.
He recalled how Berry’s appearance changed as a custody battle continued.
He became more dishevelled and messy, a little distracted, his hair longer.
‘I’d say: ‘Andrew time for a hair-cut.’ … He’d just chuckle and walk away.”
Guenette went to a small going-away lunch for Berry when he resigned from B.C. Ferries in May 2017. B.C. Ferries chief financial officer Alana Gallagher said a few words, telling Berry that this was not goodbye. He could come back to his job whenever he wanted.
“I told him to stay in touch,” Guenette testified.
But he didn’t.
“I didn’t reach out to him and he never reached out to me.”
Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough noted that Guenette told police that Berry was a non-violent person who loved his children a great deal.