August 21, 2019 4:21 pm
Updated: August 22, 2019 4:14 pm

B.C. man on trial for killing daughters takes stand, says loan sharks responsible

WATCH: The Oak Bay father who is on trial for the deaths of his two young daughters has testified in his own defence, denying he committed the Christmas Day murders. Rumina Daya was there.

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The Vancouver Island man accused of killing his two young daughters denied doing so as he took the stand at his murder trial Wednesday.

Andrew Berry has pleaded not guilty to charges 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 Berry’s Oak Bay apartment.

When defence asked if he killed the two girls, Berry said, “No, I did not.” He also denied attempting to take his life that same morning.

WATCH: (July 18) Trial of father accused of killing his young daughters hears from neighbour

The court has heard Berry was found naked in his bathtub with stab wounds, which prosecutors allege he had given himself after murdering the girls.

Berry went on to say he had a “really strong relationship” with Aubrey and Chloe, despite problems with his ex-partner Sarah Cotton after their relationship disintegrated in 2013.

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The father recalled taking his girls camping and to recreational centres and playgrounds, choking up several times as he described their time together.

He went on to deny allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate touching against him regarding Aubrey, giving a clear “no” when defence asked if they was true.

The allegations of assault and child abuse were investigated by police and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and all were deemed unfounded.

READ MORE: B.C. man accused of murdering daughters felt ‘helpless’ in custody dispute: Witness

When asked by the defence who was behind the allegations, Berry said it was Cotton, and that it temporarily impacted his access to Aubrey. The allegation also led to his removal from the Oak Bay house the couple shared.

Cotton testified last month she was concerned about her daughters’ well-being while in Berry’s care.

Gambling problems escalate

Crown’s theory is that Berry killed his daughters and tried to commit suicide because he was depressed over his extreme debt and inability to pay rent, which threatened his custody arrangement.

Defence has countered that theory by saying Berry’s debt attracted the attention of loan sharks intent on collecting money from him.

Berry admitted Wednesday he was in debt, which came from an addiction to gambling that started while working as a bellboy at the Sutton Place Hotel in Vancouver in the 1990s.

He told the court he started playing baccarat at casinos, later escalating to sports betting.

He then started borrowing money in order to keep gambling, but never more than $1,000 a month, which he was always able to pay back.

After getting a new job, Berry said he continued to gamble, sometimes gambling away his entire paycheques. He’d pay those back too, he testified, but he’d also have to cut corners on his rent and hydro bills.

A few times, Berry said, he’d win $10,000 on NFL football — but most of the time he’d lose more than he made.

READ MORE: B.C. man accused of murdering daughters had good co-parenting relationship, argues defence

He said he continued gambling after moving to Victoria in 2006. Three years later, he met Cotton while the two worked at BC Ferries.

The relationship ultimately fell apart over stresses with maintaining the house in Oak Bay and raising their daughters, Berry said.

Berry went on to say his gambling increased after their breakup. By the fall of 2015, he said he was betting $3,000 a month on sports.

A long-shot win of $100,000 only led Berry to place larger and larger bets, gambling away most of it.

Large debt has consequences

After meeting a loan shark named “Paul” at River Rock Casino, Berry testified he eventually borrowed $25,000 that he was unable to pay back right away.

Berry said he offered to pay the money back by June 2017 through his BC Ferries pension. “Paul” agreed, but only on the condition that Berry store a bag at his apartment.

The bag was dropped off that spring, Berry said, adding he “knew” it contained drugs but never looked inside. The bag was picked up by two strangers a couple of months later, Berry said.

Berry told the court he was unable to pay back the money in June, and missed another deadline in August. He then agreed to store another bag for “Paul,” who also demanded a spare set of keys to Berry’s apartment.

By November, Berry said through tears was searching for ways to commit suicide because he “wanted to die.” He attempted to hang himself that month, only stopping because of his daughters.

A suicide note Berry wrote while drunk read, “Please tell my girls to tell it like it is. They had two rules, listen to me and protect your sister.”

WATCH: (July 12) Jury hears evidence of strained relationship in the Andrew Berry murder trial

Berry’s testimony is expected to continue Thursday. Defence said the court will hear how men then broke into the father’s home and assaulted Berry, who woke up to find Aubrey and Chloe dead.

Defence has argued police immediately suspected Berry for the killings after finding the crime scene during a welfare check on the girls, allowing the real killer to escape.

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