Lawyer challenges police officer’s account of discovering murder scene

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

The lawyer representing an Oak Bay man accused of murdering his two young daughters accused police of having tunnel vision and trying to shape the case against his client.

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Andrew Berry, 45, is charged with the second-degree murders of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey, whose bodies were found in his Beach Drive apartment on Christmas Day 2017. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

As Berry’s trial resumed Tuesday at the Vancouver Law Courts, Kevin McCullough grilled Oak Bay police Const. Piotr Ulanowski, the first police officer to arrive at the apartment and discover a crime scene.

Ulanowski testified that at 5:49 p.m. that day, he had some difficulty entering the apartment and had to push the door.

“You could tell there was something behind it,” he testified.

The 14-member jury has already heard that Ulanowski shone his flashlight into the dark apartment and saw blood on the walls and the floor and clothes on the floor. He saw the body of a small girl lying on a bed in the bedroom to the right. Then Ulanowski closed the door, called his supervisor, Sgt. Michael Martin, and waited for him to arrive.

McCullough cross-examined Ulanowski about his failure to remain at the door to Berry’s apartment while he waited at the main entrance for Martin. He noted that there are two exits 15 to 20 feet from the crime scene.

“The truth is, Const. Ulanowski, it was a mistake for you to leave that door and not observe it for the five minutes while you waited for Sgt. Martin. And the reason it’s a mistake is the killer could have left?”

“Correct,” Ulanowski agreed.

The officer said he did not tell Martin that he left the door unwatched and unguarded for five minutes — and Martin didn’t ask.

McCullough asked if any of the “crack investigators” with the Vancouver Island Integrated Crime Unit asked him if he left the unit unwatched and unguarded for five minutes after he went in.

“No, not that I recall,” Ulanowski replied. “They asked me questions and I answered those questions.”

The defence lawyer said Ulanowski didn’t make a note of leaving the suite unguarded, because that would suggest “incompetence.” Ulanowski agreed he had made a mistake, but denied being incompetent.

McCullough also criticized the officer for not recording in his notes that he had difficulty opening the door. McCullough suggested there was no difficulty opening the door.

“That’s what you wish to imply. That’s not what I remember,” Ulanowski replied. “You could tell there was an obstruction there.”

“You knew they were trying to shape the case against Mr. Berry,” said McCullough.

“I’m not the lead investigator in this,” said Ulanowski. “I’m just the guy who showed up at the front door and found dead children.”

McCullough suggested Ulanowski was uncomfortable being questioned about what happened because he didn’t record the difficulty opening the door in all of the notes he made that night and in his conversations with investigators.

“This is uncomfortable because I got to reference dead kids,” the officer responded. “They remind me of my own kids. That’s why this is difficult. The only thing I wanted to do that night is go home to my children.”

“Anything else you want to add?” asked McCullough. “You realize he’s on trial for murder, don’t you?”

“I realize and I’m telling you what I recall at the time,” Ulanowski said.

“Const. Ulanowski, you have attempted to cover up your incompetence in this idea that what you saw somehow freaked you out,” McCullough said.

“Yeah, it freaked me out … the whole situation freaked me out,” Ulanowski replied.

McCullough asked Ulanowski to look at photos of the bathroom, which had blood on the floors and the walls. He asked if he put forensic booties on his feet before going into the apartment.

Ulanowski said no and agreed it would have been impossible not to step in the blood.

“I would have walked out of the apartment with bloody feet.”

Ulanowski testified that he recalled a firefighter or a paramedic moving something from one room to the other.

“I think you’ll agree with me, many things were moved in this scene,” said McCullough.

“Probably,” Ulanowski replied.

The officer testified that he and Martin received mental health first aid from firefighters with special training.

McCullough suggested sitting together and talking through things could contaminate the officers’ memories.

“It was mental health first aid. I’m not sure why you’re berating me,” said Ulanowski.

Although the officer has already testified he had his hand on his gun when he and Martin entered the crime scene, McCullough suggested Ulanowski was in such a state of shock, he didn’t know if he had his gun drawn or not.

The trial continues today.

ldicksonz@timescolonist.com

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