Canadian police probe mysterious deaths of billionaire pharma couple

By Anna Mehler Paperny

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian police are investigating the mysterious deaths of pharmaceuticals billionaire Barry Sherman, founder of Apotex Inc, and his wife Honey, whose bodies were found in their Toronto mansion on Friday.

Authorities were conducting post-mortem examinations on Saturday and treating the deaths as suspicious. A Toronto Police spokesman said that nothing had been ruled out in the probe.

Two Canadian newspapers reported that police were investigating the deaths as a possible murder-suicide, citing unidentified police sources.

The bodies were found hanging from a railing on the edge of a basement swimming pool, the Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun reported, citing police sources.

The newspapers reported that investigators were working on the theory that Barry Sherman, 75, killed his wife, hung her body and then hanged himself at the pool's edge.

Apotex released a statement Saturday saying that the Sherman family was disturbed by the reports.

"We are shocked and think it's irresponsible that police sources have reportedly advised the media of a theory which neither their family, their friends nor their colleagues believe to be true," said the statement, which was attributed to the family of Barry and Honey Sherman.

"We urge the Toronto Police Service to conduct a thorough, intensive and objective criminal investigation, and urge the media to refrain from further reporting as to the cause of these tragic deaths until the investigation is completed," it said.

Toronto Police Constable David Hopkinson said police are awaiting post-mortem results and no determinations have been made as to the cause and manner of deaths.

"There’s a whole bunch of different scenarios here. We are not ruling anything out," he said.

About a dozen police officers canvassed neighbours for information on the case Saturday while a forensics photographer took pictures of the snow-covered estate.


CANADIAN REACTION

The deaths shocked Canada’s political, business and philanthropic elite, prompting a flood of condolences from business leaders and politicians including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Barry Sherman was a prominent donor to Canada's ruling Liberal Party, drawing on a fortune that Forbes estimated at $3.2 billion. Canadian advocacy group Democracy Watch criticized him last year for involvement in a fundraiser for the Liberals while registered as a government lobbyist.

Sherman founded generic drugmaker Apotex in 1974, building it into one of the world's largest pharmaceutical makers. It has annual sales of more than C$2 billion in more than 45 countries, according to its website.

He stepped down as CEO in 2012, but stayed on as chairman.

Sherman was involved in a series of lawsuits, including a decade-long battle with cousins seeking compensation over allegations he cut them out of the company that would make him rich.

Police found out about the Shermans' deaths at about midday Friday while responding to an emergency call.

Authorities have not said who made the call, though Canadian media reported the couple's bodies were found by a real estate agent helping them sell their home, which was on the market for C$6.9 million (4.03 million pounds). 

The real state agent could not be reached for comment.

The Shermans, who had four children, were major donors to hospitals, universities and Jewish organizations.

Honey Sherman sat on the boards of several hospital, charitable and Jewish foundations, and last month was awarded a Senate medal for community service. 

She immigrated to Canada as a child when Jewish Immigrant Aid Services relocated her family shortly after the Holocaust, according to a profile of the couple on the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto's website. 


(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Additional reporting by Chris Helgren; Editing by Jim Finkle and Grant McCool)