British Columbia·Updated

Andrew Berry appealing conviction for daughters' murders

A Vancouver Island man who was convicted of killing his daughters on Christmas Day nearly two years ago has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 22 years — but his lawyer filed an appeal of the sentence and conviction almost immediately.

The Vancouver Island man is appealing his second-degree murder, and conviction, in the deaths of his daughter.

Andrew Berry killed his daughters, Chloe and Aubrey Berry, on Christmas Day 2017. He was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder for the girls' killings. (CBC)

A Vancouver Island man who was convicted of killing his daughters on Christmas Day nearly two years ago has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 22 years — but his lawyer filed an appeal of the sentence and conviction almost immediately.

In court documents filed Thursday just after Berry was convicted, his lawyer, Kevin McCullough, alleges B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper, made at least nine errors in law during Berry's trial. He says he is appealing both Berry's conviction and sentence, which the document says was "excessive and unfit."

In his filing, McCullough says the judge allowed statements Berry made right after the murders to be used at trial and also made mistakes in her instructions to the jury. 

Gropper sentenced Berry on Thursday, to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 22 years.

He was convicted by a jury in September on two counts of second-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of his daughters Chloe, 6, and Aubrey, 4, on Christmas Day, 2017. 

As she handed down the sentence, Gropper said Berry "committed heinous crimes upon his own daughters."

Berry kept his head down as he was sentenced. The convictions carry an automatic life sentence, but Gropper had to determine Berry's parole eligibility. 

The bodies of Chloe, left, and Aubrey, right, were found in their father's Oak Bay, B.C., apartment on Christmas Day 2017. (Submitted)

Gropper said that Berry was motivated in part by the animosity he felt toward Sarah Cotton, the girls' mother and his former partner. 

He was also in financial trouble — his power had been shut off and he could not afford much food. The judge said Berry was worried he would not get to see the girls again after they were to go back to their mother following the Christmas visit. 

Gropper found Berry had "the highest order of moral culpability and dangerousness," and therefore deserved a long period of parole ineligibility. 

Sarah Cotton sat still at the front of the Victoria courtroom with loved ones as the sentence came down. 

In a statement released after the hearing, Cotton said she supported Gropper's decision but added "there is no length of sentence" appropriate for the depth of Berry's crimes.

"Chloe and Aubrey lost their lives in the most brutal way at the hands of their father. I have lost the life that I loved and knew. And I do not believe that Andrew, who has shown no remorse and a complete disregard for the lives of our daughters, should ever get a second chance," Cotton said.

Chloe and Aubrey with their mother, Sarah Cotton. (Ryan MacDonald Photography)

There was no audible reaction in the room as the decision was read, but tissues were passed around as Gropper went over facts of the case for an additional time.

The trial heard that Berry killed his daughters by stabbing them dozens of times before trying to take his own life. First responders found Berry naked and unconscious in the bathtub of the apartment, suffering from stab wounds to his neck.

The Crown told the jury Berry killed his daughters partly because he was angry at Cotton, and thought she would try to take away his custody rights.

Cotton said in her victim impact statement that the trial "was the antithesis of the healing process." 

She said she was "retraumatized by all of the details that were revealed," and that "having to take the stand was unbearable and vile."

Crown prosecutor Patrick Weir had suggested a parole eligibility window of 21 to 24 years, while defence attorney Kevin McCullough argued 10 to 15 years would be appropriate.

Gropper said Berry's sentences will be served concurrently.

Cotton ended her statement Thursday by thanking her community, "especially all the first responders for their strength, bravery, courage and sensitivity throughout this horrific tragedy."

"This community including my neighbours in Oak Bay have held me up and embraced me the last two years — I have felt so protected," she wrote.

Ray Bernoties, the deputy chief of the Oak Bay Police Department, choked up as he spoke outside the courthouse. 

"I can honestly tell you, I feel nothing positive today, he said. "Nothing has changed from two years ago on Christmas."

About the Author

Kathryn Marlow

Journalist

Kathryn Marlow is a reporter for CBC Victoria. She covers stories across Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the Sunshine Coast. Follow her on twitter @KathrynMarlow.