Frank Forensics: Who Killed Barry and Honey Sherman?

The full story obviously remains untold but, as best one can judge, Barry and Honey Sherman returned to their Old Colony Road home in north Toronto on Wednesday night, December 13.

They arrived in separate cars, apparently from a meeting with the architect hired to design the new house they planned to build in Forest Hill — a meeting to which Barry had gone directly from work.

The next morning, Sherman, a self-confessed workaholic, did not show up at the office. If anyone thought to question his absence, no one acted.

On Friday, their bodies were discovered, tied to a three-foot-high railing in their indoor swimming pool enclosure.

A week has now passed and, while the Toronto police homicide squad has taken control of the investigation, few details have been released.

Inevitably, the deaths of one of Toronto’s leading power couples has set the city abuzz, with almost everyone having an opinion on the case.

Herewith, Frank presents the leading theories and our ranking of probabilities.

According to this scenario, Sherman was concerned about the imminent discovery of some financial chicanery, possibly involving tens of millions of dollars stashed in offshore bank accounts. Rather than face personal disgrace, he chose to kill his wife and take his own life.

An alternate rationale is that Honey was planning to file for divorce, which would have stripped Barry of half his wealth, an intolerable prospect.

Murder/suicide–the theory offered by police who first attended the crime scene–is a common-enough occurrence in ugly domestic situations.

But there are several reasons why it’s a poor fit in the Sherman case.

First, Barry was nearly 76 years old and suffered from a chronically bad back. His wife had long battled with her weight and she tipped the Toledos at about 180 pounds. The notion that he could strangle her and then lift her even the short distance required to dangle her body from the railing in the indoor swimming pool, stretches credulity. The more so, since they were both found with their winter coats and boots still on–adding to the weight.

Second, anyone who knew Barry Sherman knew that, whatever else he may have been, he was a fighter. His business, the Apotex Group of Companies, had been essentially built on successful legal challenges to patents controlled by the world’s pharmaceutical behemoths. He didn’t back down from threats. The idea that the mere prospect of criminal charges against him, completely unproven, would cause him to take his own and his wife’s life, is preposterous.

Third, death by asphyxiation is among the more grisly forms of suicide. This was a drug industry executive with access to the entire pharmacopoeia. A simple, single pill–or two–would do the same trick painlessly and more efficiently. Absent a suicide note explaining the event–and nothing of the kind has been reported–it seems most unlikely that, even if he wanted to kill himself, he would do it by ligature neck compression.

Fourth, the Shermans were in the process of building a new home in Forest Hill and had put their Colony Road digs up for sale. They had recently welcomed a new grandchild. They were planning a family wedding later next year. They had booked tickets for the holidays in Florida. Sherman was about to be made a member of the Order of Canada–an award he prized. None of this is consistent with a man intent on murdering his wife and taking his own life.

Odds: 10:1

Barry Sherman had fought and won a long legal wrangle with his cousins–the children of Louis Winter, the uncle who had given him his start in the industry. The cousins, four brothers, Kerry, Jeffrey, Paul and Dana Winter, had alleged that Sherman owed them a 20 per cent stake in Apotex, based on understandings signed when he acquired their father’s pharmaceutical business, Empire Companies, in the late 1960s.

The case took a decade to wind its way through the system, much to the delight of the lawyers. Three months ago, an Ontario judge dismissed the cousins’ case as frivolous, calling it an abuse of process. Two of the cousins and the widow of a third have filed an appeal.

The premise of this theory, then, is that the vengeful cousins were so incensed by the verdict–and the likelihood that their appeal will fail– that they decided to take justice into their own hands.

But this scenario also evinces weaknesses. Because of the grievance, the cousins, inevitably, would be the first names on any list of suspect, with police poring over their contacts, cell phone and email records. The likelihood that they could get away with the crime, if they authored it, is remote.

Moreover, people familiar with the cousins say they simply lack the, er, sophistication required to execute a plot of this kind.

Odds: 10:2

Barry Sherman was a very wealthy man, by some accounts the 12th wealthiest Canadian. Besides his Apotex pharmaceutical empire, he invested widely in real estate, hedge funds, etc. According to this theory, Sherman may–in one of these side deals–have found himself in partnership with one or more unsavoury characters. If a project suddenly collapsed, perhaps he was blamed by his erstwhile partners, who then resolved to exact vengeance.

This scenario is entirely plausible, and will represent a vast minefield as investigators examine Sherman’s extensive financial dealings, and all the partners attached thereto. Committing a double murder, of course, would pose a high risk for the killer, who could assume that all of Sherman’s partnerships would eventually be probed. But police would need to establish more than mere motive, and the killer might have been willing to gamble that no evidence of actual complicity would be found.

Odds: 3:1

Barry Sherman built his substantial fortune by reverse engineering patented drugs and going to market with cheaper, generic versions. The precise numbers are unknown, but it would be fair to say that over more than four decades, Apotex siphoned tens of billions of dollars from the balance sheets of the established drug companies — the likes of Pfizer, Roche, Novartis, Sanofi and others. That was money that would have deeply impacted the bottom line, performance, stock prices and executive bonuses. To say nothing of the annual legal fees, in the many millions, these firms were forced to absorb in suits and counter-suits.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, goes this theory–and it has much to recommend it.

In this scenario, one or more aggrieved pharmaceutical executives decide that the time for payback has come. They clearly have the financial means to organize a professional hit. They have the motive, in spades. In all probability, the actual assassins would be two or three levels removed from the instigators, and never know who had ordered it. That the murder would be committed years after Sherman’s perceived offences would only help dim the likelihood of Big Pharma ever being suspected or investigated.

One can readily plot the rough contours of the actual murder. The Shermans arrive home and park in their underground garage. Although the Old Colony Road house was equipped with security systems, Sherman was said to be notoriously blasé about activating them. The killers, likely two, wait patiently, possibly in the garage or upstairs. They surprise the couple from behind, and quickly strangle them to death. That’s why they were found still wearing their winter coats and boots.

The staging of the bodies by the indoor pool would have been orchestrated to suggest murder-suicide. Investigators would eventually see through the ruse, but it would at a minimum buy the killers enough time to fly to Azerbaijan or wherever.

That scenario is plausible. If it’s also accurate, there’s a better than reasonable chance the murder will never be solved.

Odds: 2:1





  1. Plausible, but the murder has a slapdash feel about it (found still in winter coats for example) that suggests less sophisticated killers than Big Pharma would presumably be able to afford.

  2. Pretty interesting to go through the choices, but I don’t think we can buy the Big Pharma scenario. Sure, Barry did real damage to Big Pharma. But those effects were spread out like butter among dozens of patent-holding companies, mostly publicly held with thousands of shareholders. So would the impact on any one individual be enough to cause him to take the enormous risk of planning a crime like this? Sounds really unlikely…and if it wasn’t Apotex busting patents, there are lots of other generics that might do it next year. We still don’t know who dunnit, but i suspect we will hear something soon from Metro’s finest, as soon as the ashes settle from yesterday’s Mississauga extravaganza.

  3. Certainly, murder-suicide seems a long shot if they were in a semi-sitting position tied to a 3 foot rail. Can someone even commit suicide in this position without using any other lethal means? And if they both took a lethal dose of drugs, why the need for one or both of them to tie themselves to a rail?

    As for the family, couldn’t they have hired a hitman? Just because someone is a likely suspect doesn’t seem like a good reason to discount them. Many murders are committed by the likeliest suspect!

  4. It’s good that the author of this interesting ass scratcher hasn’t signed it. It can be dangerous to poke around where nasty folk work.

    The family angle has this going for it: While the cousins may not have the skill set it’s entirely possible that the one who likes him his Peruvian marching powder is indebted to those who know how to distance themselves from a contract. You can guess why those involved in this hypothetical scenario might think this would provide a cash payout down the road, however harebrained this angle seems. Some people just can’t keep their gobs shut when their dealer starts hypothetically dunning for payment.

    Suicide? Sure, Barry liked rolling junk. He took pride in driving downmarket with his latest beast…a 2005 Chrysler Sebring, maybe the worst quality cheap piece of crap manufactured in the last quarter century. $4B plus and he does the one thing that sends a message to the world’s elite. He essentially telegraphs that he is more serious, much smarter, with less ego and, in his mind, a better human being. There was no murder/suicide or double suicide. Someone settled an old score. Someone who new someone who could hire someone who slipped in like the wind and, in a uniform of some kind, walked a few blocks to a parked car and disappeared somewhere warm.

    That’s pretty close to an even money bet for Boris.

    • Such uncalled-for ominousity! You’ve got them shitting in their blister pack right about now. Not. Frank published the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons.

  5. So are the press trying to link the Desai couple to the Apotech troubles?
    He leaves as Apotech president rather quickly.
    She heads, still, Apobiologix.
    They (had) a joint home near the Old Colony Road mansion?

  6. Sherman murder probe obtains seven more search warrants
    By Kevin Donovan Chief Investigative Reporter, Toronto Star Sun., Sept. 30, 2018

    ….The seven new warrants bring to 28 the total number filed by police since last December.”

  7. “Billionaire Sherman murders private investigation update set for Friday” CTV News
    Published Wednesday, October 24, 2018 11:13AM EDT

  8. Family of Barry, Honey Sherman announce $10-million reward for information, criticize Toronto Police

    The family of slain billionaires Barry and Honey Sherman is offering a $10-million reward in an attempt to “light a fire” under Toronto Police detectives − whose …
    The Globe and Mail October 27, 2018

  9. Home where murder victims Honey and Barry Sherman were found is demolished
    May 07, 2019

    Sherman family to ask Supreme Court to seal files detailing slain billionaires’ estate
    Wed., May 15, 2019

    Barry and Honey Sherman’s neighbours cite mysterious 911 call, visitor on day before billionaires found dead
    Mon., May 20, 2019

  10. Murdered billionaire Barry Sherman planned to give away or invest much of his fortune, sources say.
    Friday 21 June 2019.

  11. I noticed the Star has printed an inuendo piece about the son and heir, whose Self Storage empire was on loose sand. Would he have been smart enough to cover his trail adequately once Metro’s Finest started sniffing around it?

  12. Living in fear but compelled to help: Daughter of murdered billionaire couple goes public
    CBC July 14, 2019
    Alexandra Krawczyk adamant that Barry and Honey Sherman’s multimillion-dollar charity efforts won’t falter
    Perlita Stroh · CBC News · Posted: Jul 14, 2019 5:00 AM ET

  13. Kevin Donovan has a new book out, so

    Barry and Honey Sherman: how the second autopsy revealed it was a double murder
    By Kevin Donovan Excerpt from The Billionaire Murders
    Toronto Star Sat., Oct. 26, 2019
    Barry and Honey Sherman: The first 48 hours are crucial in a homicide. The police acted like they were in no rush
    By Kevin Donovan Excerpt from The Billionaire Murders
    Sun., Oct. 27, 2019

  14. Private investigation into murders of Barry and Honey Sherman closed, police appeal for more tips.
    CTV News Monday, December 16, 2019
    Police continue to investigate Sherman murders as private investigative team ends probe.
    CP24 News December 16, 2019

  15. The lone detective and the Barry and Honey Sherman murder case
    By Kevin Donovan Chief Investigative Reporter
    Mon., May 17, 2021timer7 min. read Toronto Star

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