Andrew Berry’s sister fought back tears, pausing to compose herself, as she recalled in court telling her brother that she felt he was depressed and needed to seek help.
“I think this would probably be the first time when I ever really directly told my brother that I thought he was depressed,” she testified Wednesday morning, recalling for the Vancouver courtroom a conversation she said she had with her brother in the spring of 2017 after learning he’d resigned from his job with BC Ferries.
“I told him it wasn’t surprising to me that he would be depressed because of everything that had happened, he had so many stressors and that I really felt that he needed to get help for this.”
Berry, who’s pleaded not guilty, is accused of second-degree murder in the deaths of his daughters, four-year-old Aubrey Berry and six-year-old Chloe Berry. The girls were found dead in their father’s Oak Bay apartment on Dec. 25, 2017. Berry, who is 45, was discovered with wounds on his chest and neck in the apartment’s bathtub.
A court-ordered publication ban prevents publishing his sister’s first name and several other identifying factors.
The court previously heard Berry and his ex-partner, Sarah Cotton, were living with their two 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.
Berry’s sister, an RCMP officer, testified during questioning from Crown prosecutor Patrick Weir she was worried when she found out her brother had quit his job.
“I felt through the years of their separation and all the allegations and so forth that had happened that it was a lot of stress for my brother. I felt he was struggling, but at the same time he was keeping it together,” she said.
She said she first reached out to mental-health services when she heard her brother had left his job, but after learning they couldn’t find him, planned her own visit to his Oak Bay apartment.
It was her belief that the two most important things in Berry’s life were his children and his job.
“He had always really liked his job. For him to just give up his job, for me, was a very extreme decision.”
The conversation she recalled having with Berry the day she visited was long, she said. Berry, who was in “good spirits,” told her he’d been unhappy with his job for quite some time.
Berry, his sister testified, told her he intended to cash out a portion of his pension to cover living costs as he searched for a new job. She said she expressed concern with his plan and also brought up depression.
She felt he needed to seek help, she said. “He was just so opposed to talking to anybody about his mental health.”
The two found some middle ground discussing her own battle with depression.
“He wasn’t willing to see the doctor, but he was, however, willing to work out a plan on what he could do to… move forward,” Berry’s sister told court.
Weir, whose questioning continued in the afternoon, ended the day reading aloud text-message exchanges between phone numbers associated with Berry and his sister.
The exchanges occurred in the weeks and days before Christmas Day 2017, with the two discussing plans for the holiday, hydro at Berry’s apartment, potential eviction and the girls.
“I worry Andrew,” Weir read aloud one series of messages, all responses from the sister’s phone. “You are my brother. I love you. I let you live your life the way you want without judgment, but I also feel you don’t love yourself, which makes me worry. I don’t want you to end up homeless, and I’m scared that is where you’re headed.”
The trial, which began in April, is being held at the Vancouver Law Courts.
— with files from The Canadian Press