Oak Bay father Andrew Berry expressed frustration about months of allegations that prevented him from seeing his daughters or only allowed him supervised visits, a B.C. Supreme Court heard on Friday.
Berry is charged with the second-degree murders of his two daughters — Chloe, 6, and Aubrey, 4 — at his Beach Drive apartment on Christmas Day 2017. He has pleaded not guilty.
Ministry of Children and Family Development child protection social worker Luc Van Hanuse took the stand Friday on day 58 of the trial, which began in April in Vancouver.
“Am I correct that investigations into these various allegations lasted weeks or months and involved multiple MCFD interactions with Mr. Berry?” asked prosecutor Patrick Weir.
Yes, said Van Hanuse.
“And during the MCFD investigations, Mr. Berry expressed his disbelief and frustration at the allegations and the impacts arising from those allegations?” Weir said.
Yes, said Van Hanuse.
“And last, and just to be clear, with respect to the allegations of possible inappropriate touching, MCFD did not believe that inappropriate touching took place?” asked Weir.
Correct, said the social worker.
The prosecution laid out a series of incident reports recorded by the ministry, all of which Van Hanuse confirmed:
• On Sept. 15, 2013, the ministry was notified by Oak Bay police that Berry was arrested after a report made by mother Sarah Cotton, and that Berry was released on conditions not to be at the family home or have any contact with Cotton. The ministry later learned that Berry was never convicted nor charged with any criminal offence arising out of that Sept. 15 report. (The trial heard earlier that Oak Bay police investigated allegations that Berry assaulted Cotton on Sept. 12 and 13, 2013.)
• On Oct. 18, 2015, Cotton called the ministry to report possible inappropriate sexual touching of Aubrey by Berry. The Oak Bay father was advised of the allegations by Van Hanuse. During the investigation, Berry could only have supervised contact with his daughters. On Halloween that same month, the ministry arranged for Berry’s sister to chaperone him while he took his daughters trick-or-treating.
• On Nov. 2, 2015, Van Hanuse conducted a home visit with Berry. He informed Berry in detail of the allegations against him and provided him with suggestions and referrals on parenting.
“Is it your understanding that at the conclusion of that investigation, both the police and MCFD found the allegation had not been substantiated?” asked Weir. Van Hanuse agreed. The file was closed Nov. 11, 2015.
• On Nov. 28, 2015, a further report was made to the ministry by a physician’s office of possible inappropriate touching of Aubrey by her father, launching a second investigation by the ministry, during which time Berry was permitted only supervised visits with his daughters twice a week for a few hours each visit.
“And at the conclusion of that second investigation, MCFD found the allegation not to be substantiated?” asked Weir. “Correct,” said Van Hanuse.
• On Jan. 20, 2016, while the ministry was still investigating the second report of possible inappropriate sexual touching, it received a report by a health-care professional from Victoria General Hospital about a bruise on Aubrey’s head suspected to be sustained days earlier at an indoor playground while she was under Berry’s supervision.
“Am I correct that MCFD investigated the allegation and while being investigated, Mr. Berry was precluded from having contact with the girls except if supervised by his sister or another adult approved in advance by MCFD?” asked Weir.
Van Hanuse agreed with Weir that Berry had “several interactions” with the ministry as a result of the investigation into the bruise, and that his limited access to his daughters persisted through the end of February 2016, when the ministry concluded there were no remaining child-protection concerns.
Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough asked Van Hanuse if it was his understanding, with regard to the report about the bruise that came out of Victoria General Hospital, that it was Cotton who had taken Aubrey to the hospital and spoken to the doctor.
Van Hanuse confirmed Cotton took Aubrey to the hospital, but added that he’d be making an assumption to say that Cotton had a conversation with the doctor — “but I hope so.”
Van Hanuse also confirmed under questioning that Berry had expressed disbelief about the allegations against him.
The trial, which began April 16, is expected to stretch into August.