WARNING: This story contains disturbing details about a double murder.
A grisly scene emerged on Tuesday, of the moments, days and months after Andrew Berry murdered his daughters, Chloe and Aubrey, on Christmas Day 2017.
In total, 14 victim impact statements were read aloud in court, along with three community impact statements, while Berry sat in the defendant box seemingly detached, refusing to look at or even acknowledge the hole he left in these people’s worlds.
Sarah Cotton, the girls’ mother, was first.
“To try to understand how the father of my children is capable of doing such a horrific and unimaginable act to his own daughters is inconceivable,” she told the packed courtroom, through tears. “All they ever did was love him.”
Cotton described the blame, guilt and terror she still feels. She spoke about the impact that has rippled through her loved ones, especially an aunt living with cerebral palsy, who had been considered high functioning until Chloe and Aubrey were killed.
“Having to see how this affected others is devastating and too much to bear on top of my own grief and loss,” she said.
Chloe and Aubrey’s friends still talk about them, and their lack of understanding is heart-wrenching said Cotton. One of Chloe’s closest friends wrote her Christmas list months before Christmas the year after they were killed, and Chloe was number one on that list. The two friends would have been in Grade 2 together this year.
For months, Cotton avoided going into Oak Bay Village, unable to see the places she and her daughters had made so many memories at — the toy store, 4 Cats Art Studio, the grocery store, the Starbucks. She has to stop herself sometimes when she thinks about them because it’s too painful.
“I had to organize my children’s funeral, have Chloe and Aubrey cremated and bury their ashes. No mother should ever have to do this,” she said. A chorus of sniffles echoed hers in the courtroom.
Cotton was prescribed medication for her depression, anxiety and insomnia — things she never had to deal with prior to this awful tragedy. When she cuts her pills into pieces before going to bed, Cotton thinks about how she should be putting the girls to bed.
The girls' godfather is giving his statement now. He's describing how the murder affected his son, a similar age to the girls. "There's no playbook to telling an almost-four-year-old, his friends are dead."
— kendra crighton (@kendracrighton) December 17, 2019
“I will never know that contented feeling of knowing my children are fast asleep and safe in their beds,” she said.
Chloe was struck with a small pink bat that belonged to her and rendered unconscious, before being stabbed 26 times while she slept in her bed in her father’s home. Aubrey was stabbed 32 times in the bed she had shared with Berry the night before.
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When Berry and his sister, whose name is protected by a publication ban, were children they would play Monopoly. She wondered aloud if this was the beginning of the gambling addiction that lead in part to the girls’ death.
Berry was at the end of his rope financially, having spent all his pension on gambling bets and had no prospect of any funds coming his way. The hydro in his apartment had been turned off when the girls went to stay with him for Christmas. He knew he would not get his children back once he handed them over to Cotton, as he had no way to get the power turned back on.
Aubrey and Chloe’s nanny, Suzanne Morin — Suzy to the girls — spoke about getting the call and how she was held by those around her as she screamed for the girls. She was hospitalized twice, once because she could not stop screaming. The way Aubrey would throw her head back when she laughed, or Chloe’s gap-toothed smile and their shared love of Taylor Swift are burned into her memory.
“I will always be their Suzy,” she said, with Cotton standing by her side. “And I will miss them every single day for the rest of my life.”
|A drawing, done by a four-year-old boy who was close friends with Aubrey and Chloe, that was shown in court. It depecits a house on the right, where the little boy is alone in his room crying. On the left, he's drawn Chloe and Aubrey in the sky, in a rainbow house. A line separates the two homes, with a small gap where two birds have flown through. (Provided by Crown Counsel)
The four-year-old son of Sandra Healing and Matt Green — who was the girls’ godfather — drew a picture that was shown in court. The drawing is of a house on the right, where the little boy is alone in his room crying. On the left, he drew Chloe and Aubrey in the sky, in a rainbow house. A line separates the two homes, with a small gap where two birds have flown through.
“He said that’s how he visits the girls now, he thinks that when ravens and eagles visit him it’s [the girls],” said Healing. “He wishes he could see them as girls again.”
Paramedic Hayley Blackmore, one of the first on scene at Berry’s Beach Drive apartment, had to take months off work. She wasn’t able to be in dark rooms and had to sleep with the lights on. Blackmore would wake up physically and mentally sick.
“I began to understand why first responders take their own lives as a way out from the unbearable weight of the trauma,” said her statement. “I will never again sit down to Christmas dinner with my family, without thinking of two beautiful blond children who brutally had their lives taken from them.
Community impact statements were given from Ricky De Souza, principle of St. Christophers’ Montessori School where Aubrey attended, Stuart Hall, head of the Christ Church Cathedral School, where Chloe went to Grade 1, along with Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch is delivering the last impact statement. "Given the crime, the community would never feel safe with Mr. Berry on the streets."
— kendra crighton (@kendracrighton) December 17, 2019
At one point, De Souza addressed Berry directly. “Andrew, you were our peer. A fellow parent. … We’d chat in the yard after school while our children played,” he said, breaking down.
Hall spoke about organizing counselling services for students and staff, but especially for Chloe’s teacher, who had a former teacher join her in the classroom, in case she needed to leave. Several parents who were separated or divorced reported to Hall their children were fearful of going home with their father.
The sentencing hearing will continue on Wednesday.