On December 15, billionaire couple Barry and Honey Sherman were found dead in their Toronto mansion, under conditions that the police would only call “suspicious.” The cause of death was ruled to be “ligature neck compression,” or strangulation.
It got stranger from there. In the days following the discovery of their bodies by their real estate agent, police suggested to the press that they were investigating a murder-suicide — a scenario people close to the Shermans said they found implausible.
“This idea that Barry would ever harm Honey — he adored her. That’s impossible. He was a gentle, good man,” Linda Frum, a senator in the Canadian Parliament and an old friend of the couple, told the New York Times.
On Friday, the Toronto police finally confirmed that they are now investigating the deaths of Honey and Barry Sherman as a double homicide — and not a murder-suicide — though they stopped short of identifying any potential suspects, the CBC reported.
Police had previously confirmed that the couple had been found on the bottom level of their $7 million home in Toronto, seated upright near their lap pool, with leather belts around their necks. There was no sign of forced entry.
But Barry Sherman was a visible target, consistently atop the lists of the richest people in Canada, with a reported net worth of $3 billion. He made his fortune in pharmaceuticals, selling generic drugs. Successful and respected, he was also known for being relentless and combative — an obituary in the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail called Sherman a “ruthless fighter capable of waging as many as 100 lawsuits at a time against business rivals.”
Sherman, according to lore, learned the industry from his uncle, Louis Winter, who owned Empire Laboratories, which made off-brand Aspirin and valium. Winter, who became something of a father figure to Sherman after Sherman’s own father died, died suddenly in 1965, at the age of 41. His wife, Beverley, died less than three weeks later, and Sherman’s four young cousins were adopted by another Toronto family, leading to a rift that would continue until the couples’ death.
The family trouble began when Sherman bought Empire after Winter’s death, sold it at a profit and started Apotex, the company that would eventually make him his fortune, largely by challenging the patents on brand-name drugs through lawsuits — a practice that made him more than a few enemies.
But he also used his fortune to cement his place as one of Canada’s most prominent philanthropists, donating generously to causes as varied as the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem and Canada’s Liberal Party.
Still, for the last decade of his life, the family feud hung over Sherman and his wife. Sherman’s cousins — Louis Winter’s kids — believed they were entitled to a stake in Apotex and fought the couple in court until a judge threw out their case in September, calling it “more than fanciful.”
One of Sherman’s cousins fighting for the cash also accused him of being involved in a conspiracy to murder Winter and deprive his cousins of their inheritances back in the early 1960s, though he later denied having made any allegations in the first place.
Sherman was also working on an autobiography, which promised to air some of the dirty secrets of the pharmaceutical industry.
Now, six weeks into the investigation, the Toronto police say they’ll be interviewing an “extensive list” of people, but wouldn’t identify any of them, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
But the Toronto police weren’t the first to report that the scene suggested a double homicide. The family, in the wake of the couples’ deaths, hired a private investigator and an unnamed source connected to the investigation told the CBC they had concluded that the couple were murdered by more than one killer.