Andrew Berry will serve 22 years before he is eligible for parole. Berry was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of his two children, Aubrey and Chloe Berry, who were found stabbed to death in their own beds, in their own home on Christmas Day in 2017.
Outside the courthouse after sentencing, Oak Bay Deputy Police Chief Ray Bernoties said he feels nothing positive about the outcome.
“Nothing changed from two years ago on Christmas,” he said, fighting back tears. “Two innocent girls were taken from our community. And we’ll move on together.”
"We'll move on together." pic.twitter.com/7bJn1tNnOo
— Nina Grossman (@NinaGrossman) December 19, 2019
Chloe was six and Aubrey was four when they were killed. They loved to paint and their favourite colours were pink and purple. Chloe was missing some of her baby teeth and you could see gaps when she smiled. Aubrey would throw her head back when she laughed and wanted to travel the world.
Only whispers were heard Thursday morning when Berry entered the courtroom. He glanced briefly at the rows of people before his handcuffs were removed.
Berry was sentenced to life in prison for their deaths. His sentences will be served concurrently and he will be eligible for parole in 22 years.
Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper laid out her decision for the courtroom after a three-day sentencing hearing, discussing Berry’s motive and facts of the case. She noted Berry was not suffering from any mental or physical disabilities at the time of the murders.
She determined Berry harboured resentment and anger towards the girls’ mother, Sarah Cotton, since the couple separated in 2015. Berry testified he thought Cotton had taken intentional steps to “screw him over,” and that he wanted Cotton to blame herself.
Earlier this week, lawyers took turns addressing Gropper with suggested parole eligibility. Defence attorney Kevin McCullough asked for 15 to 20 years and made no mention of consecutive or concurrent sentencing.
Crown lawyer Patrick Weir asked for a sentence of 21 to 24 years for each count, served concurrently or at the same time.
On Monday, Gropper determined the facts of the case which she would base Berry’s sentence on. Crown counsel Clare Jennings called Berry’s alternate tale of owing money to a loan shark “completely fabricated” and “self-serving.”
Gropper agreed with Crown, stating that it “defies logic” that the loan shark would kill the children and leave Berry alive.
Evidence shown at trial determined the girls were killed where they were sleeping, in their own home, which Gropper said would be considered an aggravating factor. There was blood inside the suite, but no blood was found anywhere outside the suite.
— kendra crighton (@kendracrighton) December 19, 2019
Chloe was struck in the head with a pink toy bat, hard enough to fracture her skull and render her unconscious before she was stabbed 26 times. Aubrey was stabbed 32 times. Both of them had stab wounds to the front and back of their body. Berry was found naked, in a bathtub full of water with wounds to his neck, which the judge found to be self-inflicted.
It is unclear which girl was killed first.
Gropper stated that in both murders, Berry would have had to turn their bodies over at least twice and that he would have had to walk between their rooms. This shows it was not a spontaneous decision and that he would have seen the effects of his stabbing on the first child, before moving on to the next. It’s not known if he went back and forth between the girls, or at all.
A knife, similar to a set found in Berry’s kitchen, was found on the floor next to Aubrey’s body. A sheath for the same knife was found on the kitchen floor. Neither girl had defensive wounds.
On Tuesday, 13 victim impact statements and three community impact statements were read aloud in court.
Cotton issued a statement after the sentencing decision on Thursday.
“I believe the family law system and the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) failed us leading up to the girls’ deaths,” Cotton said in the statement. “I did everything in my power to keep my children safe. However, my concerns made to MCFD about my children’s wellbeing in their father’s care and Andrew’s mental health fell on deaf ears. Then my concerns that he had a personality disorder were not brought forward in any significant way through the family court process. I can only hope that changes will be made throughout the family law system so that tragedies such as ours do not happen again.”
Berry was at the end of his rope financially. He had gambled away his pension from a 15-year career at BC Ferries. His hydro had been cut off and he didn’t have money for food.
“Berry believed, for good reason, that he wouldn’t get the girls back when he handed them over to Sarah on Christmas Day,” said the judge.
Weir said Crown lawyers believe the sentence is appropriate, but recognize no outcome is enough.
“Of course he’s serving a life sentence so there is no guarantee he will ever get parole,” Weir said. “Even though it’s a long period of time, the fact is that it will do some good, but it will not, of course, remove the trauma that has been placed on this community by Mr. Berry’s actions, which will last far longer than the 22 years.”
Crown lawyer Patrick Weir: "Even though it's a long period of time, the fact is, it will do some good, but it won't of course remove the trauma that has been placed on this community by Mr. Berry's actions." @OakBayNews @VictoriaNews #AndrewBerry pic.twitter.com/UYsWCy2rrN
— Nina Grossman (@NinaGrossman) December 19, 2019
In her statement, Cotton noted she is relieved this part of the judicial process is over and supported the judge’s decision, although she said there is no length of sentence appropriate for these crimes.
She thanked Crown prosecutors and the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit for their work.
“I want to thank my community of Oak Bay, especially all the first responders for their strength, bravery, courage and sensitivity throughout this horrific tragedy. This community, including my neighbours in Oak Bay, have held me up and embraced me the last two years – I have felt so protected … I hope to find a little bit of peace in the coming year and hope that we can all heal as we move forward.”