Police officer testifies about mother's search for daughters at Oak Bay double-murder trial
Published Wednesday, April 24, 2019 9:38AM PDT
Last Updated Friday, April 26, 2019 1:27PM PDT
It was another day of intense testimony at the Andrew Berry murder trial. The Oak Bay father is accused of killing his daughters, six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey.
The girls were found dead in Berry's Beach Drive apartment on Christmas Day, 2017. Berry has pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.
The court heard from Sgt Michael Martin Wednesday, the officer who the jury has heard was the second officer on scene the night the bodies were found.
Martin described meeting the girls' mother, Sarah Cotton, on Christmas Day around 4 p.m., when she came by the Oak Bay police detachment, seeking the help in getting her daughters returned. She was accompanied by Berry's mother.
Martin described Cotton as "perturbed and concerned" that they hadn't been returned by noon that day as set out in a custody agreement. She showed Martin a copy of the custody agreement on her phone and emailed him a copy of it.
Martin told the court that after verifying the custody agreement he called Berry's cellphone and sent him an email regarding the girls' return, but said he didn't intend to arrest Berry because he didn't want to tarnish the girls' Christmas or discredit either parent in front of the children.
He told the jury he developed heightened concerns about the girls' well-being when he heard from fellow officer Const. Piotr Ulanowski that Berry was not answering his door or his cellphone, although his phone could be heard ringing inside his apartment.
Martin became emotional as he described the photos of the girls and the clothing descriptions that were prepared that night and distributed to transit, taxis and other police departments to help with their return.
Martin also recounted a phone call that evening with Berry's sister, before the girls' bodies were found. He said she told him her brother was depressed and had financial difficulties that caused his electricity to be shut off, but that he was a good father, who would not harm his daughters and wasn't suicidal.
Earlier Wednesday, the Crown re-examined Ulanowski, the first officer on scene who previously testified that he entered Berry's apartment and found an injured Berry and one of the daughters. He read radio transcripts from the night indicating that he told his supervisor that detectives and ambulances were needed on scene.
Also on re-examination, Ulanowski said he didn’t think there was another way for Martin to get into the apartment building other than by Ulanowski opening the front door for him. Ulanowski was previously criticized by Berry's lawyer, who called it a mistake for him to leave Berry's suite door unsecured, when he went to the lobby to wait for Martin.
Cst. Ulanowski also told the court he didn’t think the investigation had concluded in two hours, and that the police investigation had been taken over by the major crimes unit for a "long time."
On re-examination, Ulanowski told the court he had completed a report on the crime scene before going home sometime after 1:30 am. After reading a copy of the report on the stand, he confirmed to the jury that the door to Berry's apartment was hard to open because there was clothing on the floor.
During cross-examination, McCullough put to Ulanowski, “The reality is, at all material times Mr. Berry was treated as a killer and a suspect, never a victim. Isn’t that right?”
The lawyer went on to allege, “That’s why you stayed with him at the hospital and followed him around. That’s why you didn’t ask him any questions, or try to ask him questions, about who is the killer.”
The officer rejected the allegations, and when responding to why he never asked Berry any questions, said, “He [Berry] was unconscious.”
McCullough completed his cross-examination of the officer by accusing him of assuming Berry was guilty.
“From the moment you became involved in this matter Berry was the killer,” he said.
The trial is scheduled to last four months.
More testimony is expected tomorrow from Sgt. Martin.