Constables Dion Birtwistle and Markus Lueder took the stand Wednesday during the fourth week of the double murder trial for Oak Bay father Andrew Berry. (Keri Coles/News Staff)

Berry sisters murder trial: defence draws comparison to unsolved Vancouver Island slashing

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WARNING: This story contains disturbing details and graphic content.

The jury for the Supreme Court double murder trial of the Oak Bay father accused of killing his two young daughters on Christmas Day 2017, heard from two police constables Wednesday during the fourth week of the trial.

Constable Dion Birtwistle was first to take the stand. He testified that he arrived shortly after 6 p.m. on Christmas Day to Andrew Berry’s Beach Drive apartment, where Berry’s young daughters, four-year-old Aubrey and six-year-old Chloe were found dead and Berry was found seriously injured.

RELATED: Court hears paramedic feared for safety of first responders at Oak Bay murder scene

Birstwistle explained that part of his role that day was to get the unit numbers of the first ambulance attendants on scene so investigators could follow up with them.

He was also tasked with speaking to residents to get pertinent information about what had happened at the apartment.

In a task report, it was noted that one resident, Graham Bell, mentioned he saw two women earlier in the day looking into the windows of Berry’s apartment.

“The women did not appear to be distressed, but more trying to get the attention of whoever was inside,” said co-defence counsel Ben Lynskey, asking Birstwistle to confirm the resident’s statement in the report.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay Sgt. struggles through emotional testimony in double murder trial

At one point while at the apartment, Birstwistle went into the back parking lot to look for Andrew Berry’s car.

“I was unsure whether or not we had an outstanding vehicle that may have another victim in it or another scene or whether or not it had been removed,” said Birtwistle. “We were told on route that there were multiple victims in the suite.”

Consulting his notes from the night, Birtwistle testified that when he arrived on scene other police members were inside the apartment building and a male Oak Bay police officer in the doorway to Berry’s apartment said there was a male in the bedroom who may still have a knife.

Oak Bay Const. Markus Lueder took the stand next, testifying that he arrived at the Oak Bay Police Department at 7:40 p.m. on Christmas Day 2017. While not on shift, he had been called in by Oak Bay Sgt. Angus Wagnell.

“I was called at home on Christmas Day by Sgt.Wagnell who told me there had been a murder of two young sisters in Oak Bay and their father was injured and he asked if I could come and assist at the Oak Bay Police Department,” testified Lueder.

He described attending the apartment building during the days following the crime to provide assistance with scene containment. One of those jobs was to prevent foot traffic around Berry’s bedroom windows. The area was cordoned off with police tape.

“They did not want anybody looking into those windows,” said Lueder.

READ ALSO: Juror dismissed from Andrew Berry double murder trial

During cross-examination, defence counsel Kevin McCullough asked if Lueder had done scene containment previously.

“Particularly I want you to think about April 25, 2017. You know what I’m talking about right?” McCullough asked Lueder.

“Yes. The incident on the Esplanade,” said Lueder.

“That was a stabbing, an attack, of a woman in her home, where she was stabbed and slashed,” said McCullough, noting that is was less than a kilometer away from Andrew Berry’s apartment and similarly along the water.

“That’s correct,” said Lueder.

“We know that nobody has been arrested or charged for it, right?” said McCullough.

Lueder confirmed that the investigation is still ongoing.

RELATED: ‘Horrific attack’ in Oak Bay remains a mystery

When asked if he had, at any point, gone into Andrew Berry’s apartment, Lueder said he had not.

“Did you go in for a peek?” asked McCullough. Lueder confirmed he had not entered the unit and said he didn’t want to “see a peek.”

“You never saw any of the blood in the apartment, or the bodies or anything like that. Is that right?” asked McCullough. “You weren’t traumatized.”

“The reason they didn’t want foot traffic by those windows is because there was a thought that people could see inside the windows. There are blinds on the windows so if you are looking from a distance you couldn’t see a thing,” said Lueder. “I did look inside, real brief, to see if that was actually true, if you could look into the windows and into the room or not. I did see blood and I saw some blond hair. I turned my head, ‘I don’t need to see this.’”

Defence questioned Lueder about something he wrote in his notebook: murder suicide attempt. McCullough asked who told Lueder it was a murder suicide.

While he couldn’t remember who told him, it was framed as “likely what we were dealing with,” but Lueder stressed that it was not a conclusion.

McCullough spent an extensive amount of time questioning Lueder about who assigned him to go to the hospital to stay with Andrew Berry on the night of Dec. 25.

Lueder repeatedly responded that he could not remember who sent him. He became visibly exasperated when the same question continued to be asked over and over.

At 11 p.m. on Christmas Day, Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties called Lueder and directed him to leave the operating room area where Berry was receiving medical attention, making sure to have no contact with Berry, and told him to come back to the station.

Lueder expressed to a nurse at the hospital concerns that Berry might attempt to commit suicide in the hospital. He expressed the same thing to Detective Kathleen Murphy of the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit who he saw on his way out of the hospital that night.

“You didn’t express to a nurse or anyone at the hospital that there was an ongoing police investigation and Berry was a victim of an attack?” asked McCullough.

“I did not discuss any particulars of that file at the hospital,” said Lueder.

Court resumes 10 a.m. Thursday.


 

keri.coles@blackpress.ca

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