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Police Investigating 'Suspicious' Deaths Of Billionaire Toronto Couple

Barry and Honey Sherman were found dead in their house north of downtown Toronto. The house is seen here in a Google Maps image.
Google Maps
Barry and Honey Sherman were found dead in their house north of downtown Toronto. The house is seen here in a Google Maps image.

Days after Barry and Honey Sherman were found strangled in their basement, police are investigating what they call their "suspicious" deaths. The case has sparked speculation and debate in Canada, where the billionaire couple were famous both for their ties to the pharmaceutical company Apotex and for their philanthropy.

Barry Sherman was 75; Honey Sherman was 70. Their bodies were found shortly before noon on Friday, after a 911 call brought police to their house at 50 Old Colony Road, north of downtown Toronto. It wasn't until Sunday afternoon that police publicly confirmed the couple's identity and released the results of postmortem examinations.

"The cause of death for both deceased was ligature neck compression," the Toronto police department said in one of its few communications about the case. It added that due to the circumstances, the homicide department was investigating.

The couple died after listing their house for sale, part of a plan to move into a larger property; the Globe and Mail reports that a second Toronto house was recorded in Honey Sherman's name last year. The newspaper adds that Barry Sherman, "whom friends described as a workaholic, did not show up for work on Thursday, the day before his body was found."

Citing police sources, Canadian media circulated reports that the case could be one of murder-suicide — prompting the Sherman family to issue a statement denying that possibility.

News of the Shermans' deaths shocked many in Toronto and prompted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to pass along condolences "to their family & friends, and to everyone touched by their vision & spirit."

Police have said that while the circumstances of the deaths of one of the wealthiest couples in Canada are "suspicious," the Shermans' house showed no sign of forced entry; they've said that they aren't looking for suspects.

Barry Sherman made his fortune by founding Apotex, a company that aggressively pursued generic drug sales. The firm made headlines in the U.S. in 2006, when it shocked two giant firms, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis, by selling a generic version of Plavix — a blood thinner used to prevent strokes and heart attacks — in the American market, years before a key Plavix patent was set to expire. At the time, the drug was bringing in billions in sales.

Through Apotex, Sherman was sometimes the target of lawsuits. And as the CBC reports, he had also been "dealing with a family lawsuit that had dragged on for a decade."

"A judge dismissed the case in September as an abuse of process, but court records show they filed an appeal a month later," the CBC says. In the case, four of Sherman's cousins say they are owed part of the Apotex fortune because of the terms of a deal from when Sherman bought their father's pharmaceutical company after their father died in the 1960s.

Discussing Barry Sherman's cousins' lawsuit, Murray Rubin, a longtime friend of the couple, tells the CBC show As It Happens, "Barry told me ... he gave them millions, and they blew the money."

Rubin added that he had met the cousins — and that he doesn't believe they would "go to this length" over their dispute.

"I'll be honest with you: I have no idea who could do this. But obviously, somebody just hated him. Not only him — Honey, too," Rubin said.

When asked if he was certain that the couple had been murdered, Rubin said:

"Let me tell you, I am absolutely confident that he was murdered. Barry would not harm a fly. He wasn't physical. And Honey loved what she was doing. And Barry is quite open, he was open with me. He never told me that he had problems with Honey, that it would be a murder-suicide. I think it is completely out of character."

Rubin also said that the Shermans' house "was not secure with guards and things like that," adding, "If you went and rang the bell, the door would open."

A memorial for Barry and Honey Sherman is scheduled for Thursday.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.