VANCOUVER — A jury found a father guilty of second-degree murder Thursday in the stabbing deaths of his two daughters on Christmas Day in 2017.
Andrew Berry had pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder in the deaths of four-year-old Aubrey Berry and six-year-old Chloe Berry at his apartment in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay.
A woman in the front row of the court gasped loudly when the jury’s verdict was read.
Berry hung his head and spoke quietly with his lawyers as the court took a short break.
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Justice Miriam Gropper told jury members she knew they had been through a “great deal” in reaching their unanimous verdict before she gave them time to consider whether they wanted to make a recommendation on Berry’s eligibility for parole.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, but parole eligibility ranges from 10 to 25 years.
The trial heard that police found the two children dead on beds in separate bedrooms with multiple stab wounds.
Berry was found naked in the bathtub with stab wounds to his neck and throat, and he told first responders “Kill me” and “Leave me alone” when they arrived.
In his testimony, Berry told the jury that two men connected to a loan shark named Paul stored what he believed was a bag of drugs at his apartment in March 2017 in exchange for a delay in the repayment of a loan worth thousands of dollars.
Berry testified that he was attacked by a man with dark skin and hair, but the Crown argued his wounds were self-inflicted after a failed suicide attempt.
In his closing submission, Crown attorney Patrick Weir said Berry’s testimony was “like the plot from a bad low-budget movie.”
“Like everything in his life, he wouldn’t accept his responsibility,” he said. “There was no Paul … no dark-skinned child murderer… .”
Weir said the motive for the murders was Berry’s “long-simmering animosity” towards his estranged partner, Sarah Cotton, who he believed planned to seek an end to their joint custody of the girls after Christmas.
“If he couldn’t have them, Sarah couldn’t either,” he told the jury.
Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough said the Crown’s case was circumstantial and Berry was consistent in his denials.
McCullough also disputed the Crown’s claim that Berry attempted suicide after killing his daughters.
“The accused was subjected to the most rigorous cross-examination in this trial and his evidence, whether you like it or not, was eternally consistent,” McCullough said in his closing arguments.