The unfolding investigation into the December slaying of Canadian billionaires Barry and Honey Sherman reads like the opening chapters of a bestselling mystery. Everyone ― from police to private investigators to Internet sleuths ― anxiously await the final chapter. But the ending of this real-life whodunit has yet to be written.
Whoever fatally cinched leather belts around the victims’ necks in December remains at large, but the details of the case, which has become one of the most baffling crimes in modern Canadian history, keep the mystery in the headlines.
Barry Sherman got what he deserved. This is a man who went through life decimating people. Kerry Winter
No shortage of people could have felt scorned by Barry Sherman. He was reportedly a shrewd, combative businessman who used the courts to break patent protections so he could flood pharmaceutical markets with his own brand of generic drugs. Canadian Business magazine estimated his worth to be $4.77 billion ― a figure that made him the country’s 15th-richest person.
Barry Sherman, 75, and Honey Sherman, 70, were found dead in their lavish Toronto mansion just before noon on Dec. 15. It was near the indoor pool, police said, that the Shermans were found hanging from leather belts that had been fashioned into nooses and wrapped around the poolside railing. The couple hanged there, side by side, in a “semi-seated position,” police said.
The Shermans had last been seen alive two days earlier. Honey Sherman was reportedly dressed in the same outfit she had been wearing then, suggesting the couple had been killed not long after they were last seen.
At autopsy it was determined the cause of death for both Shermans was “ligature neck compression.” The manner of death was listed as “undetermined,” meaning the coroner was unable to tell how the couple wound up hanging from the poolside railing.
Media reports in the days following the discovery relied on unnamed sources, who said investigators had found no sign of forced entry and had adopted a working theory of murder–suicide.
Friends and family vehemently rejected the conjecture.
“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.
“I’ve known Barry for 50 years,” Murray Rubin told CTV News Channel. “The last thing in the world he would do is kill his wife and commit suicide.”
The couple’s four grown children emphatically dismissed the murder–suicide talk and arranged for a private autopsy. They also hired two Toronto private detectives for their own investigation.
With no official word from police, the murder–suicide narrative dominated speculation for weeks. It was not until after the family’s private investigators said their probe showed the Shermans were victims of a double-homicide, likely carried out by multiple killers, that police finally began talking.
“We have sufficient evidence to describe this as a double-homicide investigation, and that both Honey and Barry Sherman were, in fact, targeted,” Toronto police homicide Detective Sgt. Susan Gomes said at a Jan. 26 news conference.
“Facts guide our focus,” Gomes said, explaining the initial police reluctance to disclose information. “Conjecture and speculation have no place.”
Gomes declined to say whether anything was taken from the Shermans’ house, and wouldn’t confirm reports that marks had been found on the couple’s wrists. She said police observed no sign of forced entry into the house.
The sergeant added that the investigation had been especially challenging, “given the litigious nature of Barry Sherman’s business.”
The couple’s children said in a statement that the police findings were “consistent with the findings of the independent autopsy and investigation.”
Barry Sherman founded Toronto-based Apotex Inc. in 1974 and built it into the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company, with more than 6,000 employees and some $2 billion in annual sales. He stepped away from day-to-day operations about five years ago.
Honey Sherman served on multiple boards, including those of the Mount Sinai’s Women’s Auxiliary, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the International American Joint Distribution Committee.
The Shermans were socially prominent and widely admired as generous philanthropists who regularly made multimillion-dollar donations to charitable causes. They had recently listed their home for sale for $6.9 million.
The rise to riches didn’t come without enemies — something Barry Sherman himself noted during a 2001 interview with author Jeffrey Robinson for the book Prescription Games.
“The branded drug companies hate us,” Sherman said during the interview. “They have hired private investigators on us all the time. The thought once came to my mind, why didn’t they just hire someone to knock me off? For a thousand bucks paid to the right person you can probably get someone killed. Perhaps I’m surprised that hasn’t happened.”
On the day Sherman was last seen alive, his lawyers filed documents in court supporting a lawsuit he’d filed in May, accusing a convicted fraudster of a business scheme to cheat Sherman out of $150,000.
Sherman also had been a defendant in a recently dismissed lawsuit filed by four cousins who said their father helped him get his start in the pharmaceutical business and were entitled to 20 percent of Apotex. A judge dismissed the lawsuit in September, calling the cousins’ claims “wishful thinking, and beyond fanciful.”
One of the cousins, Kerry Winter, 56, told DailyMailTV this week that he still believes the murder–suicide theory.
“My gut tells me he killed her,” Winter said. “That’s my feeling [and] I don’t believe somebody out there is going to be found because … Barry did the deed.” He added: “Barry Sherman got what he deserved. This is a man who went through life decimating people.”
Former Apotex CEO Jeremy Desai, who resigned after the Shermans were found dead, reportedly faces a lawsuit in the United States filed by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the world’s biggest maker of generic drugs. Teva accuses Desai of accepting trade secrets from a Teva employee it says he had been romancing.
Police have named no suspects, and haven’t said whether any of the lawsuits are linked to the deaths.
Investigators have a “significant list” of people they want to question, Gomes said, including everyone who had access to a real estate agent’s lockbox that allowed prospective buyers entrance to the Shermans’ house. Detectives have collected more than 100 pieces of evidence, taken statements from 127 people, and secured 4 terabytes of video surveillance video.
Since last week’s news conference, police have clammed up again. A Toronto police spokesperson said the department has no updates. A private investigator working with the Sherman family said he was unable to comment.