Court documents are shedding light on a tense court battle between the father and mother of two sisters found dead in an Oak Bay apartment on Christmas Day.
The crux of it all: the custody of Aubrey Berry, 4, and Chloe Berry, 6, according to a five-day trial between father Andrew Berry and mother Sarah Cotton in B.C. Supreme Court back in November 2016.
The decision made by Justice Victoria Gray on May 31 states Andrew Berry was to be granted the right to have the two girls for 24 hours beginning at noon on Christmas Eve this year.
Police are investigating the deaths of Aubrey and Chloe as a double-homicide, where one man was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Police have not identified the man, but are not looking for other suspects. No charges have been laid. Friends and family of the girls have told Black Press Media that the girls were with their father.
The court documents posted online show that Andrew once threatened to “blow up the house” during an argument with his ex, was the subject of restraining orders, failed to pay child support for two years, and was investigated twice by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) – in one case involving suspected inappropriate touching.
“[Andrew] has displayed poor judgment in dealing with the children. That has included saying negative things to the girls about the mother, the touching which led to the MCFD investigation, and his present arrangement of sometimes sleeping together with one or the other of the girls,” Gray wrote in her decision.
“It can be hoped that, on reflection, [Andrew] will recognize that it is a poor idea for him to say negative things about the mother to the girls and to sleep with the girls.”
While it was decided Cotton would get majority of the parenting time, Andrew Berry was granted intermittent custody of the girls on a 14-day rotating schedule involving overnight stays on weekdays and weekends, as well as almost every other holiday.
Andrew, Gray wrote, was a “loving father who has much to offer his daughters. It is in the best interests of the girls to have significant parenting time with the father.”
Pair met in 2013 before separating: court documents
According to the court documents, the common-law couple stopped living together and separated after four years together in 2013. In their final day living together, Andrew was was arrested after she called police to report that he had pinned her to the bed at 3 a.m.
At the time, Cotton said following the passing of her own father, Andrew “became increasingly critical of her and called her foul names in the presence of the children, and [Cotton] felt she had lost her protector.”
Almost immediately after the arrest, Cotton told the judge she obtained a restraining order that kept the father from contacting her or the children, lasting for three months before a peace bond was amended to give Andrew time to see the girls.
The years to follow involved issues around child support and the co-ownership of their home, including the judge finding that Andrew failed to pay his share of support to Cotton for about two years.
In November 2015, Andrew won $100,000 in a lottery, but said those funds went to legal expenses and savings, documents show.
Gray ruled that Cotton was entitled to purchase Andrew’s $60,000 share of their home for roughly $20,000 after funds owed to her by him were considered.
Andrew was also ordered to pay $395 per month from December 2016 onwards.
Cotton and Berry were still involved in family law proceedings this year, online court files show.
As the community grieves, a vigil takes place Saturday at Willows Beach in Oak Bay.