A mysterious fire and financial hardship dogged a Red Deer County couple in the years before last week’s murder investigation at their home.
RCMP officers were called to a disturbance at the rural residence at about 9:30 a.m. Feb. 27, and found a deceased man inside. The victim was identified as 36-year-old Matthew Berresford.
The victim’s wife was taken into custody. Robin Berresford, 36, faces a first-degree murder charge.
The Berresfords made the local news at least three times in the past three years.
In November 2015, the couple listed their $7.7-million riverside Red Deer County mansion on Kijiji. This elicited reactions from area residents who expressed surprise on social media that a house worth so much would be listed on the free buy-and-sell site.
On March 2, 2016, the Berresford’s 25,000-square-foot house burned down while no one was home — again igniting much public speculation.
Back then, a neighbour told the Advocate he saw a vehicle pulling away from the property just 10 minutes before flames suddenly engulfed the house, from one end to the other.
Red Deer County investigators concluded the fire was suspicious. Fire Chief Dave Laurin said the files were turned over to Blackfalds RCMP.
Police did their own investigation, but no charges were laid and the file was closed, RCMP Const. Mike Hibbs said Wednesday.
In August 2016, the Berresfords wrote to Red Deer County pleading financial hardship and asking for a $13,400 refund of their paid 2016 property taxes.
“The loss of our home has been a significant financial burden on us,” wrote the couple.
They had wanted a pro-rated portion of their 2016 property taxes to be refunded for the months their house had been “uninhabitable.”
They said this kind of relief was given to hard-hit property owners in the wake of the Fort McMurray wildfire.
But Red Deer County officials did not see it as the same situation, noting the province had stepped in to compensate for municipal tax losses after the wildfire.
While Mayor Jim Wood sympathized with the Berresfords, council unanimously voted against their request.
Matthew’s obituary states he was born in 1982 at the Red Deer hospital and was a successful Red Deer businessman. He married Robin in 2008 and they have two children.
His funeral will be April 3 at 2 p.m. at the Home Church in Red Deer.
Robin Berresford will next appear in Red Deer provincial court on April 5.