Andrew Berry told his boss child-care arrangements weren’t fair, trial hears

Andrew Berry told his boss at B.C. Ferries that his ex-wife was out to get him financially and that the child-care arrangements being drawn up weren’t fair to him.

That information was revealed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court by B.C. Ferries director Robert McNair, who supervised Berry from May 2013 until Berry resigned in early May 2017.

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Berry, 45, has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murders of his six-year-old daughter Chloe and four-year-old daughter Aubrey at his Beach Drive apartment on Christmas Day 2017.

Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings asked McNair to tell the jury the specific words Berry used to describe his ex-wife Sarah Cotton’s approach to their financial separation.

“In my [police] statement, I believe I put in the words : ‘She’s out to screw me,’ ” McNair testified.

Berry was employed as a business economist and McNair had daily contact with him. When McNair started at B.C. Ferries in 2013, Berry dressed appropriately, like everyone else, McNair said.

“As his court cases progressed, I think he was paying less attention to his personal care. He became more dishevelled,” he testified.

In September 2013, Berry told McNair he was separating from Cotton and didn’t have anywhere to live. McNair offered him the extra bedroom in an apartment he was renting and put him up for a month.

The two men didn’t spend much time together and mostly did their own thing, McNair said.

Although he recalled Berry talking about his separation, McNair said he didn’t remember those conversations.

“Every now and again, I’d ask where he was and he would share with me some of what was going on in his life,” said McNair.

“Obviously, the separation was a big thing.”

Berry also spoke to McNair about his children.

“He was very concerned to stay in contact with the children. He wanted to have 50-50 custody of the children. They were very important to him,” McNair said.

Sometime in 2015, B.C. Ferries allowed Berry to begin work early on Wednesdays so he could pick up the girls and take care of them.

Berry also made a request to work parttime, but McNair said he couldn’t support that request because it was a full-time job.

“Did Mr. Berry ever express fear about not having access to the children?” asked Jennings.

McNair testified that Berry was afraid he would no longer have access to the children after Cotton called the Ministry of Children and Family Development in October 2015 to report possible inappropriate sexual touching of Aubrey by Berry.

“He was very clear that it was a big thing for him. This was probably the most important thing for him, from his demeanour and his expressions.”

The trial has heard that both the police and the ministry found the allegation had not been substantiated. In November 2015, a doctor also reported possible inappropriate touching of Aubrey to the ministry. The second allegation was not substantiated.

In January 2016, the ministry received a report from Victoria General Hospital about a bruise on Aubrey’s head. Berry’s access to his daughters was limited until February 2016, when the ministry concluded there were no remaining child-protection concerns.

During family court proceedings in November 2016, Berry’s appearance was dishevelled and he had let his hair grow longer.

“It was clear it was having a major effect on him … it was very hard on him,” McNair testified.

“Towards the end of the court cases, I recollect having a meeting with Andrew to try and get him back on track and I suggested to him he tidy himself up a bit, including getting a haircut.”

On May 3, 2017, Berry sent McNair an email saying he was resigning and his last day at work would be May 19.

On May 4, the two men met for coffee to talk about the decision. Berry told McNair he needed to deal with family affairs.

McNair was concerned that Berry could not afford to resign. Berry said he was going to access his pension funds.

That same day, McNair sent Berry an email suggesting he take advantage of the employee assistance program. He also suggested Berry take four weeks’ vacation instead of resigning, and, “if your mind is still in the same place, offer to resign then.”

McNair talked to his supervisor about Berry’s resignation.

“We weren’t sure it was the best decision for him, so we wanted to give him some other options … so we figured this would give him more time to work things out,” McNair testified.

On May 10, B.C. Ferries held a small departure lunch for Berry. It was very low key, just a quiet way of saying best wishes for the future, said McNair.

Berry’s appearance in May 2017 wasn’t as bad as it had been during the court case, said McNair, “but I think a certain amount of dishevelment was coming back in.”

During cross-examination, Kevin McCullough noted that in his Dec. 28, 2017, statement, McNair told police: “I just thought he was a very gentle guy.”

McCullough asked McNair if B.C. Ferries has a hair code.

McNair replied that it does not have a hair code, but there is an understanding that employees should look professional.

McCullough also noted that when Berry resigned from B.C. Ferries, he appeared to do so very gracefully.

McNair agreed.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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