Jury excused until Tuesday at trial of Oak Bay father accused of killing daughters

Advisory: This story has graphic and disturbing details about a murder case.

The trial of an Oak Bay father accused of murdering his two young daughters on Christmas Day 2017 will resume Tuesday before a B.C. Supreme Court jury in Vancouver.

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Andrew Berry, 45, is charged with the second-degree murder of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey. He has pleaded not guilty to the crimes.

On Thursday, the jury was excused for the day. A publication ban is in effect that prevents the reporting of any legal discussions that occur when the jury is not present in the courtroom.

The trial began Tuesday and is expected to last three to four months. The Crown’s theory is that Berry killed the two girls, then injured himself in an attempt to commit suicide, prosecutor Clare Jennings told the jury.

Oak Bay Const. Piotr Ulanowski, the only witness to testify so far, said he was working on Christmas Day when the girls’ mother, Sarah Cotton, arrived at the police station with her mother-in-law about 4:15 p.m.

She was upset because Berry had not returned the girls at noon as he was required to do by court order.

Ulanowski went to Berry’s Beach Drive apartment and knocked on the door. He also called Berry’s cellphone and could hear buzzing from inside the apartment. The electricity had been cut off.

The officer choked up as he described the chaotic scene revealed by his flashlight. The apartment was in complete disarray and there was blood on the walls and clothes on the floor. The body of a small child was on a bed in a room down the hall.

Ulanowski closed the door and called his supervisor Sgt. Michael Martin on his cellphone rather than using his police radio, fearing Cotton might hear a radio transmission, he testified.

Then Ulanowski walked to the main entrance to let his supervisor in.

The two police officers entered the apartment when Martin arrived to begin a search. Ulanowski found Berry lying naked and injured in a water-filled bathtub. Berry was breathing but unresponsive.

Firefighters arrived, drained the bathtub, lifted Berry out and sat him on the edge of the tub, Ulanowski testified.

“They stood him up, each on the one side, and as they got him to the threshold of the bathroom, Mr. Berry collapsed. He just sort of dead-weighted them,” Ulanowski recalled.

Martin told Ulanowski to stay with Berry, who was taken to Victoria General Hospital in an advanced life-support ambulance.

During cross-examination, Berry’s lawyer Kevin McCullough suggested Ulanowski had made a “mistake” by walking away from the crime scene to the front entrance to wait for the sergeant, leaving the door to the suite and an exit door next to it unattended. It meant Ulanowski could not say whether anyone came out of the apartment after he closed the door.

The officer testified that part of him was in shock. He wanted Martin to come to the scene as quickly as possible.

The defence lawyer also asked Ulanowski if he was aware that Oak Bay Deputy Police Chief Ray Bernoties gave a TV interview about 7:52 p.m. letting the people of Oak Bay know there was nothing to worry about.

Ulanowski replied that he was not aware of that.

“That would be awfully early in a police investigation to be making that statement … 7:52 p.m. would be pretty quick to be wrapping up this case,” McCullough said.

“Probably, yeah,” the officer agreed.

McCullough asked the officer if he had ever heard of a two-hour murder investigation.

“No,” the officer replied.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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