Two sisters, ages four and six, have been found dead in Oak Bay and their father is under police guard in hospital.
The bodies of Chloe Berry, 6, and Aubrey Berry, 4, were found by police on Christmas Day in a ground-floor apartment at 1400 Beach Dr.
Their father, Andrew Berry, 43, was taken to hospital, under police guard, with self-inflicted wounds. He was found by officers after they entered the apartment searching for the girls.
Berry and the children’s mother, Sarah Cotton, have been estranged since 2013.
Berry had the children in his care Christmas morning but did not return them to their mother in the afternoon when he was supposed to, according to friends close to Cotton, who has worked in communications in Victoria.
Cotton went to the Oak Bay police station to report the girls as missing, and officers went to the apartment.
Causes of death and the nature of Berry’s injuries have not been disclosed.
The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit confirmed in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the deaths are homicides and that the victims are young children ages four and six. Police confirmed the father is in hospital, and said they are not looking for any suspects.
“This is a devastating incident and we cannot begin to express our sympathy to all those touched by this tragedy,” said Cpl. Shane Rappel of the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit.
Close friend Trisha Lees has been by Cotton’s side since Monday night.
“The girls were very joyful and that comes from Sarah. They have Sarah’s spirit,” Lees said. “Sarah’s an amazing mother. She dedicated her life to those girls. They were a very tight-knit family. Sarah is a very caring and hands-on kind of mother.”
Cotton loved to take her daughters to Willows Beach and for trips to one of the Gulf Islands, Lees said.
Frank Cotton, Sarah Cotton’s uncle, described Chloe and Aubrey as “beautiful, happy little girls.” He said his daughter, Sarah’s cousin, was teaching Chloe how to ride horses in Sidney.
He said the extended family is left with many unanswered questions. “We don’t know much about it at all yet,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing.”
The Beach Drive apartment was behind police tape Tuesday as forensics investigators took photos of the building’s interior and exterior and gathered evidence. The blinds of the ground-floor apartment that overlooks Oak Bay Marina were closed.
On her Facebook profile, Sarah Cotton had posted photos of herself, Chloe and Aubrey on the beach. In one photo, they posed on driftwood, the blond girls flashing big smiles that resemble their mother’s. Another photo shows a silhouette of Cotton, flanked by her children, their hands in hers, as they walk away from the camera and toward the horizon. The Facebook profile was removed early Tuesday morning.
Cotton met Berry when both of them worked at B.C. Ferries. She was in stakeholder engagement, and he was in the finance department.
Before B.C. Ferries, Cotton worked for the communications firm Tartan Group, which is now part of Beattie Tartan.
Deirdre Campbell, managing director for Beattie Tartan, said Cotton was hired as an intern after completing her degree at the University of Victoria.
Cotton was completely devoted to her children, Campbell said. “You couldn’t imagine a more incredible mother,” she said.
“It’s just so unthinkable,” she said of the killing of the two girls.
Cotton has been surrounded by friends since the deaths. “Her friends are gathering around her as much as possible,” Campbell said.
In recent months, Cotton took Berry to court, seeking unpaid child-support payments. Berry did not hire a lawyer and represented himself. It’s unclear if he paid the outstanding child support.
Friends said Berry, who left B.C. Ferries in the summer, was having financial problems.
In 2016, Cotton wrote on a memorial page for her mother, Elizabeth: “Five years without you but remembered with so much love. Your spirit and beauty live on through Chloe and Aubrey and we hold you close to our hearts.”