Andrew Berry found guilty of killing his two daughters Christmas Day 2017

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WATCH: The jury has returned its verdict in the trial of Andrew Berry, the Vancouver Island man who was accused of killing his two young daughters. Rumina Daya reports. – Sep 26, 2019

Andrew Berry, the Vancouver Island man accused of killing his two young daughters on Christmas Day 2017, has been found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder.

The jury delivered the verdict Thursday after 18 hours of deliberation, which began Tuesday afternoon.

Gasps could be heard throughout the Vancouver courtroom as the verdict was read. Berry stared at the floor, saying nothing in response.

READ MORE: Jury begins deliberations in trial of B.C. man accused of murdering daughters

Valerie Jerome, a close friend of Berry’s ex-partner and the girls’ mother Sarah Cotton, said she felt “relief” after hearing the verdict.

“There needed to be a conviction,” she said. “I felt satisfied for Sarah, for her family.

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“It happened almost two years ago, so to get this trial done and get the verdict we needed — it’s been tense, but it’s worked out really well.”

Berry’s defence would not comment on whether an appeal would be filed.

WATCH: Judge charges jury in Andrew Berry trial

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Judge charges jury in Andrew Berry trial – Sep 24, 2019

Berry was found in his Oak Bay apartment laying in the bathtub with several stab wounds. His daughters, six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey Berry, were found stabbed to death in their beds.

Crown argued Berry’s wounds were self-inflicted and he had killed his daughters after hitting rock bottom over a crippling gambling addiction that made him unable to pay his bills.

Prosecutors and witnesses had told the court Berry was fearful his financial state would lead to him losing custody of the girls to his ex-partner, who he resented.

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Both Berry and his defence have maintained the father was attacked by a person connected to a loan shark named “Paul” to whom he owed a significant gambling debt, and woke up later to discover his daughters had been killed.

READ MORE: Defence’s case in Oak Bay child murder trial like ‘plot from a low-budget movie’: Crown

Berry had testified he took the girls sledding Christmas Eve and Christmas morning until that afternoon when a “dark-skinned” man attacked him.

Defence had suggested the real killer was allowed to get away after police failed to secure the crime scene immediately.

Crown had compared defence’s case to “a plot from a low-budget movie,” pointing out DNA from a fourth person was never found in Berry’s apartment.

They instead suggested Berry killed the girls in the morning, then turned the knife on himself with intentions to die.

WATCH: Crown delivers closing arguments in Andrew Berry murder trial

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Crown begins closing arguments in Andrew Berry murder trial – Sep 20, 2019

The court heard Berry had spent years falling deeper and deeper into debt from gambling, to the point where the power would be cut off at his home.

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Cotton testified she grew increasingly worried that people were out to “get” Berry because of his debts.

A custody dispute dating back to 2013 had been mostly resolved shortly before the killings, with a judge granting Berry parental visits, including the one on Christmas Eve.

Police discovered Berry and the girls’ bodies during a welfare check at Berry’s apartment, after Cotton reported he was late dropping their daughters off at her home as scheduled.

READ MORE: Defence suggests Oak Bay child murder crime scene staged by alleged attacker

News of the girls’ deaths sent shock waves throughout Oak Bay and the rest of Greater Victoria. People traveled from mainland B.C. to Vancouver Island for several vigils in the days following the murders.

Jerome said the verdict represents justice for Chloe and Aubrey, but said their loss still hurts for everyone who knew them.

“Those little girls are gone,” she said. “Thank god there was justice, but it’s still such a tragedy that it happened.”

Berry faces a mandatory life sentence, with a minimum 10 years before becoming eligible for parole.

A date for sentencing will be set on Oct. 9. Crown says the hearing, which will be held in Victoria, will likely last between two and three days to allow for victim impact statements to be read.

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—With files from Rumina Daya and Jordan Armstrong

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