News / Toronto

Barry and Honey Sherman were murdered, sources say

The Sherman family’s private investigation into the shocking deaths of billionaire Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey is revealing a very different story than the murder-suicide theory that has led headlines to date. A Torstar investigation reveals the details.

Sources say the Sherman family's private investigation into the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman has found that the two were murdered in what looks like a professional contract killing, not a murder-suicide.

The Canadian Press / File photo

Sources say the Sherman family's private investigation into the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman has found that the two were murdered in what looks like a professional contract killing, not a murder-suicide.

It’s double murder, not murder-suicide. Barry and Honey Sherman were killed in what looks like a professional, contract killing. That’s the conclusion of a variety of experts who have been hired by the family to probe the case.

Here’s the new information: There are markings on the Shermans’ wrists, an indication that at some point their hands were tied together, though no rope or other ties were found near the bodies. Toxicology tests on their bodies reveal no sign of drugs that would have contributed to their deaths. Men’s leather belts found around their necks were the cause of the “ligature compression” that killed them. A top forensic pathologist who did a second autopsy determined this was a double homicide, barring any new information that surfaces.

Meanwhile, the Toronto police would not provide any new information or comment on the findings of the family and maintain their classification of the deaths as “suspicious.”

People providing information for this story are not identified as they were not authorized to discuss the case.

Barry, born Bernard C. Sherman, was the founder and past CEO of Apotex, a generic drug firm. He is said to have been worth $4.77 billion at time of his death. Honey, his wife of 46 years, was well known for her charitable work and community involvement. Barry was 75. Honey was 70.

They were found in their home in North Toronto just before noon on Dec. 15 by a real estate agent. Their house was for sale.

The Friday evening of the day the bodies were discovered, a police officer at the scene told reporters that there was no sign of forced entry at the home and as of that day, police were not seeking any suspects. “At this point we are not seeking a suspect,” a Toronto police detective said that night.

Brian Greenspan, who represents the family of Barry and Honey Sherman, says that former homicide investigators hired as private forensic experts will provide

Nathan Denette

Brian Greenspan, who represents the family of Barry and Honey Sherman, says that former homicide investigators hired as private forensic experts will provide "a second lens" to the police probe into the deaths of the billionaire founder of Apotex and his wife.

Saturday morning a story broke in the Toronto Sun that police were working on a theory of murder-suicide. Other media, including the National Post, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, confirmed the report that this was the active theory of the police at the time. In each case, the media quoted sources and did not identify an officer who put forward the theory.

The murder-suicide theory brought quick outrage from the Sherman’s four children who released a statement saying the theory was wrong. By this time, Toronto homicide investigators were at the scene and they eventually took over the probe from divisional officers. The family hired high profile criminal lawyer Brian Greenspan who in turn brought in private detectives and experts in pathology and crime scenes.

An autopsy — the first of two — was carried out on Dec. 16 by a provincial pathologist at the Centre of Forensic Sciences who determined that both Shermans died by “ligature neck compression.” The police said nothing else, still classifying the death as “suspicious.”

The family wanted to know more and with the help of Greenspan, went looking to hire a forensic pathologist to do a second autopsy.

The family hired Dr. David Chiasson, formerly the chief forensic pathologist for Ontario. Chiasson now does pathology work at the Hospital for Sick Children and is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.

Chiasson conducted a second autopsy days before the Dec. 21 funeral. Present at the autopsy was the team of private detectives, most of them former Toronto homicide investigators, assembled by Greenspan. Chiasson’s conclusion, along with that of the private detectives present, is that it was a double homicide barring any other information that might come from the ongoing probe. Not murder-suicide. The ligature neck compression, sources say, was likely done by two men’s leather belts found at the scene wrapped around the necks of the victims.

While earlier media reports suggested they died by hanging, sources say that is incorrect. They were found in a seated position at the side of a pool in a lower level of the house, with their legs facing away from the pool. The belts were around the neck, with the end of the belt through the buckle and pulled tight. The free end of each belt was then looped or tied around a low railing that surrounds the pool. Sources say a working theory of the private team probing the deaths is that the Shermans were strangled by the belts, then the belts were attached to the railing, holding them in a seated position.

Sources with intimate knowledge of the Sherman family’s investigation have used words like “professional,” “contract killing,” and “staged homicide” to describe the scene.

A key finding discovered in Chiasson’s autopsy were marks on both Barry and Honey Sherman’s wrists, an indication that each person’s wrists were bound together at some point, likely with rope or a plastic strap. An examination of the markings does not clearly determine if the hands were bound in front or behind. Their hands were not bound when the bodies were discovered.

The Shermans were wearing winter coats that were pushed back away from the shoulders and down, which would have the effect of immobilizing the arms. No rope or plastic strap was found at the scene and sources have speculated to the Star that when Toronto police examined sewer pipes around the house they were looking for whatever was used as ties. Police also searched the roof of the house and used metal detectors on the property.

The next stage in the family’s investigation was to conduct a toxicology analysis to see what, if any, drugs were in the bodies of the victims. Police had arranged for samples to be taken and sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences. The lab work, which takes about two days, was delayed as the lab is perpetually backlogged. It is now complete, but police have not shared the results with the family or the public.

Greenspan and his team had samples taken during the second autopsy. The results are negative for any drug that could have caused their death.

Dr. David Chiasson, formerly the chief forensic pathologist for Ontario, was hired to conduct a second autopsy on the bodies of Barry and Honey Sherman.

Lucas Oleniuk

Dr. David Chiasson, formerly the chief forensic pathologist for Ontario, was hired to conduct a second autopsy on the bodies of Barry and Honey Sherman.

As of Friday afternoon, the Toronto police were still examining the interior of the house at Old Colony Rd. Both police and private detectives have canvassed the houses on the street for surveillance video. While several homeowners with cameras that can see parts of the Sherman home in the distance have provided video to both police and the Sherman family detectives, sources have told the Star that nothing has come from a study of the various videos.

Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash told the Star on Friday that the deaths remain classified as “suspicious.” He said when “we are in a position to release more information we will do so.”

While the bodies were discovered on Friday, Dec. 15, it appears the Shermans died between late Wednesday Dec. 13 and Thursday afternoon, Dec. 14. Family sources say the last known cellphone communication (text or audio) from the Sherman couple was Wednesday during the day.

Though the family’s investigation team has not been granted access to the home yet, sources say their understanding is that there was no damage to the inside of the home — nothing to suggest this could be a home invasion.

In an interview this week, lawyer Greenspan said he and the team he has assembled are trying to provide a “second lens” to look at the case. His team has yet to enter the Sherman home, and while they had been promised entry right after the holidays, it looks like it could be another week before police release the scene. He said the police have made several requests for access to information related to the Shermans and in each case the executor in charge of the Shermans’ affairs has provided “full co-operation.”

It is typical in a death investigation for police to serve production orders signed by a judge or justice of the peace (similar to search warrants) on cellphone companies or banks to obtain records showing a person’s whereabouts. If permission is given, by an executor as in this case, those production orders are not required.

As to the early theory that it was a murder-suicide, Greenspan said that anyone who knows the couple would find that “unsupportable as a matter of logic.”

The Star has attempted, unsuccessfully, to learn who at the Toronto police came up with that theory and whether it still holds water. Greenspan said he does not have a “working theory” as to why the police have not classified the deaths as homicide.

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