The mother of two young girls found dead in Oak Bay in 2017 returned to the witness stand on Tuesday morning in the trial of her ex-partner.
Andrew Berry is accused of two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of four-year-old Aubrey and six-year-old Chloe. The two girls were discovered dead in Andrew Berry’s Oak Bay apartment. He has pled not guilty to the charges.
The girl’s mother, Sarah Cotton, began her testimony on Monday and cross-examination continued Tuesday.
The court has heard the couple met while working at BC Ferries and began dating in 2009. They were living with their two young daughters as common-law spouses in September 2013 when Cotton called police alleging she had been assaulted by Berry.
A criminal assault charge against him did not proceed and he instead signed a peace bond that meant he was to have no contact with Cotton except in relation to their daughters, the court has heard.
Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough asked if Cotton was “very upset” with the custody decision in May 2017 that allowed Berry access to their daughters 40 per cent of the time and she agreed that she was.
On Monday, Cotton said she called police and the Children’s Ministry on several occasions, including to report suspected inappropriate touching of Aubrey, but police found no evidence the touching was sexual or criminal. Court heard Tuesday Berry got more time than previously had with the children.
Cotton rejected McCullough’s characterization of the incidents as her making “allegations” of sexual touching.
“I wouldn’t say I made allegations. I reported what my daughter told me because I had the responsibility to,” she said.
Cotton also told a B.C. Supreme Court jury that she was also very concerned about the schedule that was put in place for the girls because it meant “too much back and forth.”
The schedule included one week with each parent in July and August.
McCullough says texts and emails between the parents in July 2017 suggest co-parenting was going well and they were speaking in person, but Cotton says Berry would not communicate with her face to face. She said Berry was regularly dropping off the kids late in 2017, which concerned her. She found it “disrespectful”
“We didn’t communicate and that’s why Chloe and Aubrey got to where they got to,” Cotton said on Tuesday, appearing on the verge of tears.
Court heard in September and October, there were a series of phone calls, texts about pick-ups, co-parenting and Berry texting about sick kids.
Cotton also added that there must be phone calls and texts not submitted to the court on record. She said there was a gap on Oct. 31 when she couldn’t get a hold of Berry about Halloween visitation.
The court has heard that Cotton went to the Oak Bay police detachment on Dec. 25, 2017, after Berry failed to return their daughters as required.
Crown lawyer Clare Jennings has told the jury that police went to his apartment and found Chloe and Aubrey dead, lying on beds in separate bedrooms with multiple stab wounds.
Police found Andrew Berry naked in the bathtub with a black eye and stab wounds to his neck and throat, and he told first responders, “Kill me,” and “Leave me alone,” Jennings has said.
McCullough has argued that the first police officer who responded to the scene made a mistake by leaving the apartment door unattended for about five minutes. The officer testified that he did not know whether anyone had left the suite during that time.
The defence lawyer has also questioned Cotton about an email she sent to a friend in May 2017, in which she said she was worried people may be “after'” Berry due to his gambling debts.
Berry’s trial is taking place in Vancouver but Cotton’s family and friends are watching in a Victoria courtroom. Monday was the first time Cotton had seen Berry since the death of her daughters.
With files from The Canadian Press