Witnesses offer new insight into custody battle, finances of B.C. man accused of murdering daughters
The trial of a Vancouver Island man accused of murdering his two young daughters heard from two new witnesses this week, giving new insight into his custody battle and financial affairs.
Andrew Berry has pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey Berry, whose bodies were found on Christmas Day 2017 in his Oak Bay apartment.
On Tuesday, the court heard from Berry’s former supervisor at BC Ferries, where he worked as a business economist.
Berry moved in with Robert McNair after his relationship with ex-partner Sarah Cotton disintegrated in 2013.
“He believed she [Cotton] was out to get him financially… He was very determined to stay in contact with this children. He wanted to have 50/50 custody, they were very important to him,” McNair testified
McNair told the court Berry had told him Cotton had called social services to suggest the father of two had touched the girls inappropriately in 2015 and 2016.
All allegations of abuse relating to the girls were investigated by police and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and deemed to be unfounded.
WATCH: Andrew Berry’s neighbour testifies
Last week, the court heard that the allegations had prevented Berry from seeing the girls without supervision, which had frustrated him.
“My recollection is he was afraid he would no longer have access to the children. He was very clear that it was a big thing to him … the most important thing to him,” McNair told the court.
McNair testified that Berry’s appearance became disheveled as legal issues wore on him. Berry resigned from BC Ferries in May, 2017, saying in an email that he’d enjoyed his decade there and would miss the job.
McNair told the court he’d tried to get Berry to stay, offering him four weeks of vacation to deal with his family issues, but Berry declined.
WATCH: Jury hears evidence of strained relationship in the Andrew Berry murder trial
That same month — seven months before the girls were killed — Berry won 40 per cent custody.
On Monday, the court heard from Timo Musgrove, a neighbour, who testified he’d helped Berry move cash through his own personal bank accounts.
Musgrove testified that Berry had asked him for help in July, 2017 — and said he let the accused use his accounts to hold money after Berry said he was worried his ex would have access to the funds.
The court heard that Berry’s sister, an RCMP officer who cannot be named due to a publication ban, had transferred more than $22,000 into Musgrove’s account.
The majority of that money was then deposited into an account on the BC Lottery Corporation’s Playnow.com betting site on Berry’s behalf, the court heard.
Musgrove told the court he believed the money was to be used for food and bills, and that he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong, adding that Berry would occasionally give him $40 for helping out.
Crown’s theory is that Berry’s world was unravelling due to a problem with online sports betting. The prosecution has argued that he was depressed over his inability to pay rent and hydro, which threatened his ability to keep custody of his kids.
On Monday, the court also heard new details about the troubled relationship between Berry and his ex.
WATCH: Disturbing details: Firefighter testifies at trial of father accused of killing daughters
Musgrove testified Berry had said he was fighting for custody of the two girls and was worried he’d lose them.
“For example, at one point social services was called [by Berry’s ex] — something to do with him inappropriately touching his daughters, which I personally do not believe to be true in any shape or form,” Musgrove testified.
“[Berry said] he didn’t do it.”
Musgrove also testified that he’d heard Chloe and Aubrey playing in the apartment’s hallway, adding that from across the hall “you could hear them saying, ‘I don’t want to go back to mom’s.'”
On Dec. 25, 2017, Berry was found naked in his bathtub with stab wounds that prosecutors allege he had given himself after murdering the girls.
Defence has pushed back against the Crown’s version of events, arguing that someone else killed the girls and was able to escape when police left the scene unguarded for about five minutes, and later focused their attention on Berry as the prime suspect.
— With files form Sean Boynton
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