Advisory: This story has disturbing, graphic information from a murder trial.
Andrew Berry has every reason to want to go back and rewrite the story of how his daughters, six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey, were killed on Christmas Day 2017, the Crown said during closing submissions in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
But Berry’s evidence is so self-serving and illogical, his story so flawed, you simply can’t believe it, prosecutor Patrick Weir told the jury, which has been sitting since mid-April.
Berry is charged with the second-degree murder of his two young daughters who were stabbed to death in his Beach Drive apartment. Berry was found naked in the bathtub with life-threatening injuries. He has denied killing the girls and trying to take his own life.
There’s overwhelming evidence that Berry is the only person who could have killed them, Weir told the 12-member jury. Berry intended to kill them and he wielded the knife, Weir said.
“None of us might ever understand what motivated a person to do what he did, but you don’t have to establish a motive to find him guilty. In his mind, there was a reason,” Weir said Friday.
By Dec. 24, 2017, Berry’s situation was bleak. His bank and credit card records show insurmountable debt. He was about to be evicted. He was so destitute he didn’t even have food for the girls and, what’s worse, he knew the girls’ mother, Sarah Cotton, was aware of that, Weir said.
Cotton wrote emails to Berry, asking him to make sure the girls eat dinner because they had come home hungry several times. The girls were eating oatmeal, instant potatoes and ramen noodles.
A few days before Christmas, Cotton found out Berry’s electricity had been cut off.
Although the Crown can’t say when it was written, Berry wrote a suicide note to his sister blaming Cotton and his parents for all his problems, Weir said.
In the note, Berry called his parents getting involved in Chloe’s change of school “the last straw.”
He also wrote: “It felt better for me to escape. Things were getting worse, not better.”
On Dec. 24, his sister warned him that he would lose his children if he has no electricity, which means no working fridge. Her texts to him became increasingly desperate and frustrated when he didn’t respond to her questions about what he’s doing for the holidays. “He never responds to any of his sister’s text messages that he come and visit. He never calls her back. He never talks to the property manager about his rent. He never makes any effort to get hydro. Nothing matters after Dec. 25 because he’s going to commit suicide,” Weir said.
“So as the 24th turned to the 25th, Mr. Berry’s anger and resentment against Sarah, which literally had been festering for years, was alive and well. He knew she had the right to take away those girls on the 25th and he knew she had the willingness and resources to take away those girls on the 25th. At the same time, he despised his mother for what he believed was her incessant meddling.”
Berry’s evidence that he fell in with a loanshark named Paul doesn’t even come close to standing up to any scrutiny, Weir said. There’s no Paul and there’s no distinctive henchmen coming to his apartment demanding his spare key and storing two packages of drugs in the closet.
“He’s trying to come up with an explanation to explain the evidence that there was no sign of forced entry,” Weir said.
In addition, Berry’s account of what he and the children did on Christmas Day in not believable.
“They spent the entire day from before dawn to about 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. not eating anything except a small bowl of oatmeal. They don’t have to go to the bathroom. There’s no squabbling. They spend four hours trekking around and two hours sledding and they seem to go the whole day without seeing anyone from the building,” Weir said. “None of this makes sense. None of it is remotely believable.”
Berry’s account of the attack is preposterous and it didn’t happen, Weir said. Berry testified that this attack was meant to kill him.
“So why didn’t the assailant finish the job?” asked the prosecutor.
The children were found in their beds, in their pyjamas, no socks and no underwear. Their bodies were cold and stiff to the touch. Both girls had empty stomachs. There was no evidence they had eaten oatmeal for breakfast, as Berry had testified.
Neither girl had marks of any struggle. The girls were stabbed on their chest, on their backs, on their arms, on their necks and one of their hands. Berry’s wounds are vastly different from the ones inflicted on the girls, Weir said.
Berry was stabbed only in the front, not the back, he noted. Berry had horizontal slashes on his neck, a stab wound to the throat and 16 chest wounds all grouped together, similarly oriented and about the same depth.
“Why doesn’t his assailant plunge the knife in over and over and over? Why would he just throw him to the ground? It doesn’t make sense. Why doesn’t he stab him as many times as it took to finish the job?”
Berry’s wounds were all in an area Berry can reach.
“No expert opinion is needed to prove these wounds were self-inflicted. They obviously were,” said Weir. “An expert can tell you about the kind of weapon used to cause that type of injury … You can see how they are grouped and oriented. The proper inference to draw is that Mr. Berry is right-handed.”
Berry testimony about losing consciousness several times is convenient and allows him to explain all of the forensic evidence in the apartment.
His ability to go unconscious at critical junctures means he doesn’t have to give a better description of his assailant, he doesn’t have to explain the blood pattern story in the apartment, he doesn’t have to explain the 16 chest wounds, his lack of defensive wounds, how his clothes were removed and how he ended up in a bathtub or how his assailant left the suite.
“Did the real killer actually pick him up, carrying him to the bathroom, take off his clothes and put him in a bathtub?” asked Weir.
The prosecutor asked the jury to consider how the assailant carried Berry to the bathroom and how he managed not to leave any footprints on the kitchen floor which was slippery with blood.
“So the killer undresses the still-unconscious Mr. Berry. Think of how hard that would be. And now he’s got to run the tub and get Mr. Berry back into the tub and he goes through this elaborate process and leaves Mr. Berry alive in order for this to be staged as a murder-suicide,” said Weir, referring to defence arguments.
For a murder-suicide, there has to be a suicide, yet Berry is left alive, Weir said.
The DNA recovered from the suite belong to Berry. None of it belonged to Paul or the henchmen.
Weir reminded the jury that there were unopened presents from the girls to Berry under the tree, that there was no sign of forced entry to the apartment, that all the windows were locked from the inside and Oak Bay police Const. Peter Ulanowski testified that he felt resistance when he first pushed open the door to the apartment.
Even on Dec. 27, exchanging notes with his sister at the hospital, even after the horrible events on Christmas Day, Berry is still writing of his grievances against the mother and Cotton, said the prosecutor.
“At the end of the day, once you reject Mr. Berry’s preposterous, impossible story and you must, you are left with overwhelming evidence that Chloe and Aubrey died in that apartment on Christmas Day 2017 and equally overwhelming evidence that Mr. Berry is the only person who could have killed them.”
Justice Miriam Gropper has instructed the jury to return Tuesday morning for her final instructions before they are sequestered and begin their deliberations.