Andrew Berry and the manager of his Beach Drive apartment building played “a game of cat and mouse” over rent, a B.C. Supreme Court jury in Vancouver has heard.
Brown Bros. property manager Antonio DeCesare was called to testify Monday at Berry’s trial for the second-degree murders of his six-year-old daughter Chloe and four-year-old daughter Aubrey on Christmas Day 2017.
From December 2016 to December 2017, Berry was often behind in rent, DeCesare testified. The two had constant communications through text messages about Berry’s failure to keep up with the rent.
“I was trying to impress upon him the severity of the situation if the bailiffs got involved,” DeCesare testified. “I really did not want Andrew to move out. Other than the rent, I had no issues with his tenancy. I really wanted him to stay current and stay in the building.”
The last time DeCesare saw Berry was the summer of 2017, he recalled. Berry was outside smoking a cigarette. He was unshaven and wearing a T-shirt and jeans.
“I heard that he quit his job. So I asked if he quit his job. His answer was: ‘I’m on holiday,’ ” DeCesare testified.
Rent was due on the first day of each month. Sometimes, Berry paid his rent in the middle of the month.
On Dec. 1, 2016, Berry owed more than $3,440 in rent. By Jan. 1, 2017, he owed $3,586. He made no payments in March and April.
DeCesare told prosecutor Clare Jennings that by the end of April, early May, he was prepared to hire a bailiff to evict Berry. But Berry told him there was money coming from his pension payout.
“The balance was $4,910 in April. If there was no money forthcoming, I would have had to evict him,” he said.
On May 3, Berry’s father made an online payment of $3,300, which left a balance of $1,610.
Berry made no payments in June. On July 7, his sister made an online payment of close to $4,000, which left him with a credit of $988.
Berry made no payments in October, November and December.
On Nov. 11, 2017, DeCesare knocked on Berry’s door and served him with a 10-day notice to end his tenancy for unpaid rent.
“Sometime in 2017, I can’t remember if it was Nov. 11 or earlier, I asked Andrew if help from his parents was still an option. He said: ‘That ship had sailed,’ ” DeCesare testified.
“After you provided Mr. Berry with the 10-day notice, did you take any further steps in respect to his tenancy?” asked Jennings.
“I did not,” DeCesare said, shrugging. “We did not apply for an order of possession. My thinking was I was going to wait until after the holidays to see if Mr. Berry could become current. If not, in January, if no money was coming, I was going to terminate the tenancy.”
During cross-examination, defence lawyer Kevin McCullough noted that DeCesare had never told Berry he was going to wait until January.
“Well, we’d been going through this song and dance for how long?” DeCesare said. “Did you read my text messages? It’s all there.”
“Exactly,” said McCullough.
“I let him know what would happen if I had to call the bailiff. ‘Pack up your prize possessions. Get your passport. If they come, they’re taking everything,’ ” DeCesare testified.
“You and Mr. Berry were well acquainted with playing cat and mouse with each other around rent,” said McCullough.
The property manager agreed with McCullough that he was fed up with the situation by May 2017.
He said he sent Berry a photograph of a cheque made out to Consolidated Bailiffs. “I was trying to impress upon him the seriousness of the situation. I did not want to evict him,” said DeCesare.
He never sent the cheque because he received a payment of $3,300 toward Berry’s rent.
Jasmine Wong was also on the stand Monday, testifying by video from the Victoria courthouse.
Wong, now 21, lived in the same apartment building as Berry. She testified that the last time she saw Berry was at the lighted truck parade with Chloe and Aubrey. The parade went right by their building.
“He was taking the girls onto the median outside. He had set up camping chairs and sleeping bags to keep them warm,” she testified.
Wong lived in an apartment on the second floor. She saw the girls around the building, but didn’t have many interactions with them. When she graduated from high school, she went through all her books and found one about fairies she thought the girls would like. She gave Berry the book and Aubrey asked her to help her put on her fairy dress.
Wong was likely the last person to see the girls alive. It was Christmas Eve and snow was falling in Victoria. She testified that she looked outside around 11 p.m. and saw the girls playing in the snow, making a snowman.
“I could hear them giggling outside.”
“Was that a sound you recognized?” asked Jennings.
“How did you know it was them?”
“I recognized their blond hair and their voices and their giggles,” said Wong.