Mother of dead B.C. girls raised concerns about father's parenting in court
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, December 28, 2017 8:08PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 28, 2017 8:12PM EST
VICTORIA -- The mother of two young girls who were found dead on Christmas Day in a Victoria-area home had concerns about their father's parenting abilities, court documents say.
In a decision released in May, a Supreme Court of British Columbia judge said Andrew Berry displayed poor judgment in dealing with his children, including allegations of inappropriate touching that led to an investigation by the province's child welfare agency.
"The father has displayed poor judgment in dealing with the children," wrote Justice Victoria Gray.
"That has included saying negative things to the girls about the mother, the touching which led to the (Ministry of Children and Family Development) investigation and his present arrangement of sometimes sleeping together with one or the other of the girls."
In court, Berry testified he tickled one of the girls but not inappropriately.
The court decision was intended to settle custody of the children and distribution of assets after Berry separated from his common-law partner, Sarah Cotton, in September 2013.
Police officers were called to a residence in Oak Bay on Monday evening where the bodies of two children were discovered. A friend and a family member identified the girls as Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe Berry, 6.
Police have said an injured man, whose condition has not been disclosed, was found inside the home and taken to hospital.
The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit said Wednesday the man remains in hospital and was not in police custody.
Police have not released the identity of the injured man and no charges have been laid.
The deaths are being investigated as a homicide by police, who have said they are not looking for further suspects. Police have not released any additional information about the investigation.
The court decision says Berry was subject to a restraining order preventing him from contacting Cotton or the children for two months immediately following the couple's separation in 2013. The order was later adjusted to a peace bond that was amended to allow him time with his children.
Court heard as the marriage dissolved, the father threatened to "blow up the house" during an argument over money, which the judge accepted as the mother's uncontradicted evidence.
The investigation into allegations of inappropriate touching stemmed from what Cotton heard from her daughters and their nanny in October 2015 after the children were allowed to stay overnight with their father, the decision says.
The decision says Cotton "understood" the investigation found that Berry had acted inappropriately but not with criminal intent and that it recommended the girls attend counselling and their father take parenting courses.
Gray concluded that Berry's "displays of poor judgment regarding the children" did not justify depriving his daughters of "significant parenting time" with him.
"The father is a loving father who has much to offer his daughters," it says. "The children appear to be generally happy and healthy, although suffering some stress from the breakdown of their parents' relationship."
The document says Berry wanted to split custody of the girls evenly with their mother, but the court granted Cotton more parenting time because of her flexible work schedule and because she had been the girls' primary caregiver for most of their lives.
At the time of the decision, Berry worked as an economist with BC Ferries, while Cotton was self-employed managing commercial and residential properties she owned, the document says.
It says the pair began living together in 2010 while both worked at BC Ferries. Cotton's position was eliminated two years later while she was on maternity leave. A spokeswoman for BC Ferries said Berry left the corporation in the spring.
By Geordon Omand in Vancouver.