Murder case: I had to walk away from scene, officer says

Advisory: This story contains disturbing details about a murder case.

A forensic identification officer testified on Friday that he felt so angry as he processed the crime scene where two young Oak Bay girls were murdered on Christmas Day 2017 that he had to walk away from the scene to compose himself.

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Saanich police Sgt. Michael Duquette was giving evidence at Andrew Berry’s second-degree murder trial at the Vancouver Law Courts. Berry, 45, is accused of killing his six-year-old daughter Chloe and his four-year-old daughter Aubrey at his Beach Drive apartment.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Duquette, who performed various tasks at the apartment from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31, 2017, told Crown prosecutor Patrick Weir it was an unusual crime scene.

“Did being in and processing the crime scene, including interacting with the bodies of Chloe Berry and Aubrey Berry, have any emotional impact on you?” asked Weir.

“Yes,” Duquette replied. “I was angry.”

“Any other emotions?”

“Anger.”

“Anything else?”

“Sadness.”

“Did you take any steps to address those feelings as you went about your work?” asked Weir.

“Yes. I would exit the scene and swear out loud, then I would compose myself and go back to the scene,” Duquette testified.

The sergeant said he first became aware of the murders just before 9 p.m. on Christmas Day. He was at home having dinner when he received a call from Det. Andy Walsh, the staff sergeant in charge of the detective division.

Saanich police have four forensic officers, Duquette explained. As the sergeant in charge of the forensic unit, he took the on-call spot during the Christmas break so his officers could have Christmas with their families.

Walsh told him the Oak Bay Police Department was responding to an incident where two young girls had been killed in a suite. They had a suspect and they wanted the scene processed, Duquette testified.

“As soon as I received that call, I started thinking: ‘Who do I need?’ ”

Duquette started making calls to officers in his section, leaving out one officer who has two young children.

He decided his second-in-charge, Const. Andy Harwood, and another officer who had just received training at the Canadian Police College, would go to the scene.

The police officers were not immediately dispatched to the crime scene, said Duquette. The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit had taken over the case and would hold a briefing at 8 a.m. on Dec. 26 at their office.

“There were scene-containment officers and there was no need to attend at night and do everything in the dark,” Duquette testified.

Forensic identification officers often wait until morning to begin photographing scenes, he said.

“I did a lot of thinking that night about what I would need. I didn’t know anything other than there were two dead children.”

Duquette called his officers and told them to be prepared. He also wanted to load up the forensic identification vehicle before the briefing.

On Friday, the jury was given copies of the Crown’s book of photographs taken in the apartment over five days. Justice Miriam Gropper warned jurors that Duquette’s testimony was expected to be graphic.

“We will look at the photos as necessary. We’ll take a break after hearing this testimony. If you require an additional break when we are considering this evidence, please advise the sheriff, who will let me know,” said Gropper.

Duquette told Weir he had reviewed the book of photographs, which were taken by Harwood and RCMP Sgt. Kimberly Tremblay while he was at the scene.

He said the book did not include all the photographs taken at the scene. Duquette estimated there were more than a thousand other photographs not in the book.

The trial continues Tuesday.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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