Sarah Cotton with her daughters Chloe (left) and Aubrey (right) taken in October 2017. (Photo Ryan MacDonald Photography)

Mother of girls killed in father’s Oak Bay home testifies in double murder trial

Sarah Cotton recalls learning her daughters Chloe and Aubrey Berry were dead

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details about a double murder trial.

The last time Sarah Cotton saw her two daughters – Chloe, 6, and Aubrey, 4 – was on the morning of Dec. 22, 2017.

Cotton took the stand on Monday morning to testify in the trial of her ex-partner, Andrew Berry, who is charged with the murder of their two daughters.

On that day, Cotton was dropping off Lamby, Chloe’s favourite toy at Berry’s apartment, and had tapped on the window of the first-floor apartment in Oak Bay. She recalled the girls’ faces popping up through the blinds, smiling, before they greeted her.

“Chloe had a dragon costume on, it had a tail,” Cotton said, her voice cracking. “I told them that I loved them and I hugged them.”

Cotton noticed that the lights were still out.

ALSO READ: Forensics officer testifies he saw ‘no signs of forced entry’

The afternoon before, when driving by Berry’s place a few hours before dropping the girls off, Cotton had seen the lights were out. She had guessed that Berry wasn’t home before Chloe corrected her.

“‘Oh no, he’s there,’” Cotton recalled Chloe saying. “We use flashlights, it’s just like camping.”

Cotton was concerned about the hydro situation but continued to drop the girls off on the evening of Dec. 21, expecting to have them dropped off at her place at noon on Dec. 25. She did not speak with Berry about the hydro issues in front of the girls, stating that she “wanted to keep the peace for Christmas,” but was “concerned for their well-being.”

She sent several texts and emails to Berry about figuring out different arrangements until his power was restored, stating a couple of days for the girls was fine but that they shouldn’t be in the dark and without heat for long. Berry did not respond.

ALSO READ: Juror dismissed from Andrew Berry double murder trial

When she dropped the stuffed animal off at Berry’s home the next day, she urged him to read her emails.

“He looked very distant, very far away like he was thinking about something when I asked him to check the email,” Cotton said.

Cotton used an app to be notified when Berry read her emails. He read an initial one sent on Dec. 21, but did not read subsequent ones.

On the morning of Dec. 25, Cotton made sure stockings were stuffed and that presents were under the tree. She was expecting the girls at noon and Berry’s parents, Brenda and Malcolm Berry, to come at 2 p.m.

When Berry did not arrive, she called and texted him with no response before reaching out to his sister, who also called him.

ALSO READ: Oak Bay Sgt. struggles through emotional testimony in double murder trial

By 2 p.m. Berry’s parents had arrived at Cotton’s home. Cotton and Brenda went over to Berry’s apartment while Malcolm stayed home in case the girls showed up.

This time when Cotton tapped the window, no one responded. They searched surrounding parks and recreation centres, and left several voicemails and text messages with Berry. They went back to Berry’s apartment and buzzed his neighbour who reported hearing the girls up that morning around 8 a.m.

After several hours, they went to the Oak Bay Police Station.

Cotton and Brenda waited in the lobby. After several hours, they noticed Malcolm was brought in, and that the Saanich Police Department was also on scene.

ALSO READ: Defence lawyer requests break as blood-soaked clothing shown to courtroom in Berry murder trial

“I knew at this point it wasn’t good,” Cotton said.

A police officer asked Cotton to come into the chief’s office, where they sat her in a chair. Two officers were on either side of Cotton.

“They held me so tightly,” Cotton said. “They told me that Chloe and Aubrey had been injured, and I thought okay, but they’re alive, and then they said, ‘They’re dead.’”

Cotton sobbed, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Then I screamed like never before. I was in such shock.”

ALSO READ: Defence lawyer requests break as blood-soaked clothing shown to courtroom in Berry murder trial

After a lunch break, Cotton’s time on the stand continued with cross examination from Andrew Berry’s defence counsel Kevin McCullough, who read the court text and email exchanges between the parents, who had split in 2013.

McCullough said the messages – arranging pickups, drop-offs, swim gear and field trip preparations – demonstrated a “good co-parenting relationship.”

McCullough read from emails where Cotton and Berry provided updates on the kids, letting one another know of any health or sleeping issues that arose during their time with them, as well as detailing activities and arranging future plans.

In one email, Cotton outlined how the heat impacted the girls’ sleep, how she took them to play at the water park and asked if Berry could respond to an invitation to a birthday party that took place during his weekend with them.

Cotton told the courtroom that she “was filling him in on their lives while he wasn’t with them.”

Asked again if there was a good co-parenting relationship between the two, Cotton responded: “I felt like it was in the best interest of the girls to communicate as much as possible.”

She said, of her communications with Berry: “I was trying my best.”

“Was Mr. Berry trying his best?” McCullough asked.

“I don’t know, you would have to ask him.”

With files from Nina Grossman.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Meet Arthur Heart, Oak Bay Avenue’s resident stickman

Contest winner dubs stickman Art Heart

Victoria council keeps its catered lunches at more than $10,000 per year

Two councillors tried to eliminate the expense, with widespread rejection

All Carlton Cards stores closing in the coming weeks

Schurman Retail Group stores across North America will close, including 79 in Canada

UPDATED: 12 Wet’suwet’en supporters arrested by VicPD

Protesters rallied against Coastal GasLink pipeline

Four things ‘not’ to do if you run into Prince Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Here is a list of some things you definitely should NOT do, according to the BBC

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C.-based Coulson Aviation C-130 crashes in Australia

Three people are confirmed dead in the crash in New South Wales

New nasal spray launched in Canada to combat hypoglycemic shock in diabetics

Baqsimi is a nasal spray contains three milligrams of glucagon

B.C. RCMP spent roughly $750K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Island Bakery in Cobble Hill to close

Cobble Hill store in business since 1982

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

Canadian public health agencies ramping up preparations in response to new virus

Health officials have said there are no confirmed cases of the emerging coronavirus in Canada

Most Read