Two young girls, found dead in an apartment on Vancouver Island on Dec. 25, were "just the kind of little girls that anybody would want to have as daughters," a close friend of their mother said Wednesday.
Police found the bodies of Chloe Berry, 6, and Aubrey Berry, 4, in a ground floor apartment in Oak Bay, a municipality within the Greater Victoria Regional District, on Christmas Day.
An adult male was taken to hospital, where he is being treated for injuries, police said. The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit is investigating the deaths as a double homicide.
Girls were in the care of father
Family friends say the children were with their father, Andrew Berry, at the time.
"There are no words," said Sandra Hudson, a close friend of the girls' mother, Sarah Cotton, in an interview.
Hudson, who worked with Cotton in public relations, said she learned of the deaths when she was called and asked to come to the Oak Bay police station late Christmas Day.
"When I arrived there, we learned that Chloe and Aubrey had passed away," Hudson said.
"They were amazing, fun girls," she said. "I met both of them on the day they were born."
Hudson said she and other close friends have been providing emotional support for the girls' mother since they learned of the children's deaths.
"Just to hold Sarah and Chloe and Aubrey in people's thoughts is all anybody can do right now," Hudson said.
Stuart Hall, the head of Christ Church Cathedral School where Chloe was in Grade 1, spoke to reporters Wednesday afternoon. Inside the cathedral a vigil was in progress for parents and children of the school as well those from Aubrey's preschool, St. Christopher's Montessori in Oak Bay.
'Deep and jagged tragedy'
"It's a terrible and deep and jagged tragedy that we're all facing," Hall said.
Counsellors are on site, he said, and the Greater Victoria public school district has offered assistance. Hall said school officials will reassess the needs of students and families for support in the weeks ahead.
"It's extremely challenging to explain this to anybody. It's unfathomable," he said.
Meanwhile, in response to the outpouring of grief and shock from Oak Bay residents on social media and elsewhere, Rev. Michelle Slater announced that she will open Oak Bay United Church from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday for people to gather, light candles, pray or just sit in silence.
"I thought the first thing we could do is just open the church building, have the sanctuary open, have some music playing," Slater said.
Members of the congregation will be available to host and provide support.
"When tragedies like this happen it can hit very close, especially when it's in our own community," Slater said
"It can reveal to all of us the fragility of human life, and our own lives, and the lives of the people that we love, and that kind of shock and horror and sadness can be very isolating."
Father and mother lived separately
Deirdre Campbell, managing director at Beattie-Tartan, a public relations firm, hired Sarah as an intern from the University of Victoria. Campbell said the stay-at-home mother was totally devoted to her two children.
Campbell said Cotton went on to work for BC Ferries, where she met Berry, who also worked there and was listed as a business economist.
The couple have lived separately since 2013, Hudson said.
Investigators are expected to be at the scene for the remainder of the week.
Police have released few details about the case. However, court files indicate that Cotton and Berry were involved in ongoing family law proceedings as recently as Nov. 23.