The sister of Andrew Berry testified Wednesday that she told her brother she was concerned that he was depressed and that if he didn’t get hold of his problems it would “spiral” to the point of him being suicidal.
The sister of an Oak Bay man accused of murdering his two daughters broke down in tears as she described concerns she had about her brother’s mental health in the months before the slayings.
The emotional testimony by the sister, who can only be identified as A. Berry due to a publication ban, came during the trial of Andrew Berry, who has pleaded not guilty to the Dec. 25, 2017, second-degree murders of Chloe Berry, 6, and Aubrey Berry, 4.
She told a B.C. Supreme Court jury that she became concerned in spring 2017 after she learned from their parents that Berry had quit his job as an economist at B.C. Ferries. Berry’s decision to quit came around the same time as a family court order dealing with custody issues after his split with his wife, Sarah Cotton.
“To me that was a catastrophic decision that I really just didn’t understand,” said the sister. “My first attempt was to have people from the community mental health in Victoria go and see him.”
She said that the mental-health team ultimately decided to try to locate Berry but only after they’d also spoken to Cotton. When the team was not able to locate them, the sister went to Berry’s apartment on Beach Drive and found him in good spirits.
She said she and her brother had a long chat about his decision to leave B.C. Ferries and he told her that he’d been “very unhappy” with his job for quite some time and he just couldn’t take it anymore and that was why he was leaving. Her brother spoke of another job possibility and also that he was going to cash in a portion of his pension to cover his costs while he waited to get the new job.
Asked by Crown counsel Patrick Weir as to any advice she gave, she said she felt the move to cash in part of the pension was not a good idea and that the money was for his retirement and it should stay there.
“Did you talk to him about any other stressors that may have been going on in his life,” said Weir.
“Yeah, we talked a lot. I think that probably this would be the first time where I ever really directly told my brother that I thought that he was depressed,” she said.
She said she told Berry that it wasn’t surprising that he would be depressed because of everything that had happened and that he had had “so many stressors” to that point.
“I really felt he needed to get help for this, but he wouldn’t have any of it. I asked him to get a family doctor. He said no … He was just so opposed to talking to anybody about his mental health. To him, he felt that he was perfectly fine.”
As the sister spoke, she broke down in tears. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper asked her if she wanted a break, but she said she was OK and could continue her testimony. The sister said that the one thing Berry agreed on was when she told him that he just didn’t love himself anymore.
“That one he accepted. He didn’t freak about that comment so I used it. And it got him to ask me what I had done when I had been depressed after my car accident.”
When she began talking about routines that Berry could use to deal with his problems, defence lawyer Kevin McCullough stood and objected to the testimony and the jury was excused from the courtroom.
Later, the sister said that she told her brother that in addition to her concerns that he was depressed, she felt if he didn’t get a hold of it, it would spiral to the point that he could become suicidal.
“To that, he had a very strong reaction, that he would never commit suicide, that he would never do that to his girls.”
She said she wasn’t very keen but ultimately decided to accept about $40,000 from Berry’s pension money into her bank account when he told her he couldn’t deposit it into his own account, which was frozen.
Berry came to her several times, including once when she gave him $10,000 cash from the pension money and a second time when she gave him $8,000, she said, adding that he told her the money was going to living expenses.
The sister also testified about a series of texts on Dec. 24, 2017, between her and Berry’s phone in which she expresses concerns that the power has been cut off in his apartment and he may face eviction.
“I worry Andrew,” said one of her texts read out in court by Weir. “You are my brother. I let you live 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 this is where you are headed.”
The trial continues July 25 with more testimony from the sister.