VANCOUVER — The Oak Bay man accused of killing his two young daughters says he walked into his bedroom mid-afternoon on Christmas Day 2017 and was tackled onto the bed.
“And my chin is reefed up and I’m stabbed in the throat. There’s a searing pain in my body. And the next thing I know, when I come to, is I just don’t know what to think. I don’t know what’s happening,” an emotional and pale Andrew Berry told the B.C. Supreme Court jury hearing his case.
“So I go into Chloe’s bedroom and I fall down in the doorway and lose consciousness. When I wake up, I crawl over to Chloe’s bed and I pull myself up on my knees. And I reach out and touch Chloe and she’d dead and there’s blood everywhere.”
Berry’s voice shook and he started to cry.
“And I just think ‘Aubrey’ at that point. And I get up and go to my room again and she’s not there. I move over to the kitchen. And my memory of the kitchen is me grabbing a knife and getting thrown to the floor then stabbed a couple of times.”
Berry testified that his next memory was waking up in the bathtub with a light shining on his face and a first responder saying: “This is the guy who killed his kids.”
Six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey were fatally stabbed in Berry’s Beach Drive apartment on Dec. 25, 2017. Berry was found injured and naked in the bathtub. The 45-year-old has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in their deaths.
Berry took the stand in his own defence on Wednesday, telling the jury he did not kill his daughters and he did not try to commit suicide on Christmas Day 2017.
He was composed, speaking in a monotone as he described his strong relationship with the girls, his relationship with the girl’s mother, Sarah Cotton, and his history of gambling.
He testified that in 2017 he borrowed $10,000 from a loan shark named Paul who became frustrated when Berry was unable to repay him. The debt increased to $25,000 and Berry said he was incredibly stressed at his financial situation.
A rock was thrown through his window and two men associated with the loan shark visited him in his home. Twice, Berry was asked to store packages in his apartment that he assumed contained illegal drugs. He was also asked to hand over a spare set of keys to the apartment.
On Thursday, McCullough asked Berry to describe the person who attacked him.
“My height, dark skin, dark hair,” Berry said.
He was not one of the men who had come to his apartment, he told the defence lawyer.
Earlier in the day, Berry told the court he took Chloe and Aubrey tobogganing two times on Christmas Day, even though he was supposed to return the girls to their mother by noon.
Berry testified that he bought snow toys for their Christmas presents and they opened them on Christmas Eve during a rare snowfall in Victoria.
“It was just too perfect,” Berry said.
They built a snowman with a carrot nose in nearby Windsor Park and frolicked in the snow, he said.
The girls stopped playing outside near midnight, said Berry, who explained that he wanted to keep them up later than usual so they didn’t wake up in darkness in his apartment. His hydro had been cut off because he failed to pay the bills.
The girls went to bed without a problem. They were very excited about Christmas and Berry read to them before they went to sleep.
When the girls woke up about 7 a.m., they unwrapped some presents and were happy.
“We had some oatmeal and we got ready to go play in the snow again,” Berry testified.
The children didn’t eat very much, and he ate their leftovers, he said.
Although a neighbour testified that she heard banging and crashing coming from Berry’s apartment about 8 a.m. Christmas Day, Berry said there was were no unusual noises coming from his apartment that morning.
Berry testified that he and the girls left the apartment about 8 a.m. and took their time walking in the snow for more than an hour along Hampshire Road to the snow-covered Victoria Golf Club. The girls played for an hour, then they walked back along the same route, arriving home about noon.
“Did you know that you had to get them to Sarah’s at that time?” asked defence lawyer Kevin McCullough.
“Yes, I did,” Berry replied.
“Why didn’t you take them to Sarah’s?”
“They were so keen to keep tobogganing,” Berry said. “The snow was melting and I knew if they went back to Sarah’s they wouldn’t get a chance to play in the snow again.
“So I decided to take them back and keep on playing. I knew I would get in a bit of trouble with Sarah but as long as I had them back for her Christmas dinner, I knew I would be OK.”
The stop at home during lunch was basically a pit stop, Berry said. The girls didn’t want to eat anything, and they didn’t change their clothes. They just wanted to play in the snow again, so they walked back to the golf course, along Hampshire Road.
Berry said left his phone at home, explaining to the jury: “I didn’t want to get the phone calls from Sarah.”
Chloe and Aubrey just loved playing in the snow, he said.
“They were happy but they didn’t want to go home,” Berry said, crying and rocking back and forth in his chair.
Berry also testified that Cotton had been aware for weeks that the hydro at his house had been cut off.
Cotton had told the court that she became aware on Dec. 21 that there was no hydro in his apartment. She testifed that dropping the girls off that night was the biggest regret she’ll ever have in her life.
That evening, Cotton sent Berry an email asking him to let her know by noon on Dec. 22 if he had working hydro.
“When you received that email, what did you think Sarah Cotton was doing?” McCullough asked.
“She was up to something fishy,” Berry replied. “I don’t know what she was doing, but it was unusual because she’d known for a long time before that email came to me.”
McCullough referred Berry to an email Cotton sent to a friend on May 8, 2017: “My gut tells me he is in a very bad place and may have people after him re gambling debts.”
“How did she know?” McCullough asked.
Berry shrugged. “She just knows. She knew,” he replied.
Berry testified that he searched the internet on Nov. 28, 2017, for ways to commit suicide. He bought a bottle of rum and wrote a suicide note to his sister. He had depleted his resources and was ashamed and depressed.
The suicide attempt did not work — Berry woke up hungover and sore.
In the three-page letter, Berry said he could no longer take “abuses” from his ex-wife and parents. He testified that everything in the letter was true. He said he wrote to his sister so she would blame his mother and Cotton for his suicide.
Berry said he is ashamed of blaming them for his problems.
“They didn’t put me there. I was the one gambling,” he testified.
Berry started crying when McCullough asked him about one line: “Please influence my girls to tell it like it is. They had two rules. Listen to me and protect your sister.”
“I just wanted the two of them to look after each other, Chloe and Aubrey,” he said.
Berry’s evidence continues Friday.