WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may not be suitable for all readers.
The trial of an Oak Bay man accused of murdering his two young daughters resumed Monday with heartbreaking testimony from the slain girls’ mother.
Sarah Cotton’s daughters, six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey Berry, were found dead in their father Andrew Berry’s apartment on Christmas Day, 2017.
WATCH: Trial of father accused of killing daughters sees surveillance video
On Monday, the court heard Cotton describe dropping the girls off with their father on Dec. 21. Her ex was to have custody of the girls until noon on Christmas Day.
Cotton told the court that she arrived to find the lights off, and mused to the girls that Berry was not home.
She said she became concerned that Berry’s hydro had been disconnected when the girls replied, “Oh no, he’s home. We use flashlights. It’s just like camping.”
Cotton testified that she saw the girls again on Dec. 22, when she returned to drop off a stuffed animal for Chloe. She said the girls asked, “Mommy, how many nights until we see you?”
She told the girls she loved them, and asked Berry to check his email — where she had written to him about the power situation, and told the court Berry looked “very distant, very far away like he was thinking about something else.”
WATCH: (Aired April 24) Second witness called at trial for father accused of killing daughters
The court heard how Cotton became increasingly concerned when Berry failed to drop the girls off at noon on Christmas Day, and how when Berry’s parents arrived at her house for a visit with the girls at 2 p.m. she opened the door in tears, telling the grandparents “they’re not back yet.”
She testified that multiple calls and texts to Berry had gone unanswered.
Cotton and Andrew Berry’s parents went to his apartment to look for him, the court heard, but no one answered when they knocked on his door.
Berry’s mother spoke to a neigbour, who said she’d heard the girls awake and active around 8 a.m., at which point Cotton went to the police, the court heard.
When police later arrived at Cotton’s home to retrieve Berry’s father, she told the court she knew something was wrong — but initially believed her ex had fled with the girls.
She was taken to the Oak Bay police office where she described officers holding onto her tightly while they delivered the horrific news.
Officers told Cotton, “Chloe and Aubrey have been injured,” she testified. She initially thought, “OK, but they’re alive,” she told the court.
Then, officers said, “They’re dead,” at which point Cotton testified she “screamed like never before.”
The court has previously heard that Berry was found naked and seriously injured in the bathtub of his home when police arrived to conduct a welfare check on the girls.
Crown has alleged those wounds were self-inflicted and meant to be fatal.
Defence has pushed back against Crown’s version of events, questioning a firefighter’s memory of the day in question and suggesting police may have allowed another suspect to escape by leaving the scene unguarded for about five minutes.