As Andrew Berry’s sister walked into his hospital room at Victoria General, after being notified that her nieces had been killed, Berry popped up in bed, she testified Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
“And I really don’t know how to describe it, except to say with an immense amount of intensity, he said: ‘Kill me.’ And he just looked at me and he lay back down,” she said, starting to cry.
“At first, I was just taken aback. He’s my brother. I can see he’s my brother. But at the same time, this is not my brother. He looked so different. He was so thin. His hair was just crazy and just his eyes, the way he said it, it was something I had never seen before, so I paused dead in my tracks.”
A court order prohibits publication of the sister’s name and the location of her employment. The jury has heard that she is a Vancouver Island RCMP officer.
Her 45-year-old brother has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murders of his daughters, six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey, at his Beach Drive apartment on Christmas Day 2017.
Berry’s sister was concerned that given the opportunity, he would try to kill himself. She confirmed that a nurse had heard the same thing she did and asked her to document it, she testified.
Berry was conscious, but not fully alert, she said.
They communicated by touch and look.
“It was an exchange of love,” she testified. “I held his pinkie.”
On the late afternoon of Dec. 27, 2017, Berry’s sister stayed with him for a longer visit. Prosecutor Patrick Weir asked her to describe her emotional state.
“It was exactly the same as it was before. I was feeling very, very overwhelmed. I had a lot of very mixed emotions, some very strong emotions. And I remember that before I went to see him, I really felt that I needed to compartmentalize the sadness and the anger,” she testified.
Berry was able to talk with difficulty. A nurse had given him a clipboard with paper on it and they used it to communicate.
“We would talk and write. Sometimes it would be talking, sometimes writing. It was a little bit of everything.”
Berry’s sister said it was important to her to approach him from a place of compassion.
Weir took her through three pages of notes she exchanged with her brother that day.
Berry’s sister wrote that that would likely be the last time he saw her, and she asked him to tell her everything he needed her to know.
Below that note was her brother’s written response: “I love you. I’m sorry. I have no idea what to say. I think I understand not wanting to see me. I don’t remember what I did but I tried suicide. I left note on table. I don’t know why my eye is black.”
Berry’s sister testified that she assumed the note he was referring to was a suicide note.
Berry wrote that his mother and ex-wife Sarah Cotton were bullies. “It was getting worse not better. The school change was horrible. They both knew I was adamantly opposed and yet they made it happen.”
Berry wrote that sometimes his sister’s job got in the way of him fully expressing himself.
“I couldn’t take them anymore,” the notes continued. “Seeing them together at the Christmas concert hurt. Evil.”
“Sarah treated me so like I didn’t matter. Mom was joining in. The lies they created to get their way was absurd, plus I couldn’t stand up to them.”
“Did he say anything about your mother?” asked Weir.
“He said he was evil like our mother and he warned me to stay away from her,” Berry’s sister testified.
She advised him to tell the truth to a psychiatrist.
Berry’s sister said she did not talk to him about what happened inside the apartment.
“Why not?” asked Weir.
“I can’t really answer that except to say there comes a point in the conversation with my brother … there doesn’t seem to be any recollections from him that the girls are dead. I don’t know if he knows.”
Berry’s sister asked a nurse if anyone had told him his daughters are dead. Nobody had and she started to think she should tell him.
“In retrospect, you don’t tell a suicidal person their children are dead. I was about to tell him, then I realized, I’m a police officer. It complicates things. I don’t know how to proceed.”
Weir asked her why she thought Berry didn’t know the girls were dead.
“He didn’t ask about them,” she testified.
When Berry’s sister found out her brother was to be moved to Royal Jubilee Hospital, she asked staff to let her know if they had any advance warning of her brother being arrested.
Berry himself told her he was going to be arrested. A psychiatrist had told him and advised him to be out of the general population in jail. “He just seemed resigned, maybe a little dumbfounded, but it wasn’t extreme in any way,” she recalled.
When he asked her what to do, she told him he needed to get a lawyer.
Berry’s sister brought clothing to him at the hospital to wear for his arrest. She testified that she wrote messages on both sleeves on his sweatshirt so he could read them when he folded up the cuffs.
One message said: “I love you.” The other said: “Truth.”
“Why did you write that?” asked Weir.
Berry’s sister said she struggled with the feeling of not wanting to see him. “And I don’t know … I will never know … it’s not for me to figure out … I don’t know if Andrew killed his daughters or not. But I know he was there,” she looked directly at her brother.
“And for me, when I look at him now, I see a shell of a man. I don’t see my brother and I want my brother back and I think that the only way. …”
Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough objected and the jury and the witness were excused.
When the jury returned, Justice Miriam Gropper told them to disregard the statement that Berry’s sister was seeing a shell of a man.
Weir asked her again why she wrote those messages.
“[They were] my last words of wisdom to him. Because I really felt from this point forward, there was nothing for us, because I wouldn’t be able to help him. … When I’m thinking about him and his future, I’m not thinking about the court process or anything like that. I’m thinking how does one get past losing your children in such a violent way,” she testified.
“I don’t want to say that’s he guilty or not guilty. … The only way I could see how anyone could ever get past this is for him and for everyone around to face the truth of how he got there, what happened and from there try and move forward.”
Berry’s sister said she battled her feelings of love for her brother. “But at the end of the day, I still love him, that’s why I wrote it. I didn’t want him to lose sight of that.”