- Canadian billionaire Barry Sherman and his wife were found strangled in the basement of their mansion last Friday.
- Police think Sherman might have killed his wife, then killed himself. The couple’s children don’t believe the police’s theory.
- Sherman had been caught up in a political lobbying scandal before his death.
Mystery continues to shroud the deaths of a Canadian billionaire and his wife, who were found strangled in their mansion last Friday.
Barry and Honey Sherman’s real estate agent found the couple dead in the basement of their property, which they had just put up for sale for $US5.4 million (£4 million). There was no sign of forced entry to the house.
Five days on, the circumstances surrounding the deaths remain unclear, with the Sherman family strongly denying leaked details of the police investigation.
The police theory that the family has rebuked
Initial post-mortem examinations showed the couple died from “ligature neck compression,” or strangulation from tying or binding, the Toronto Police Service said on Sunday.
Officially, police have marked the deaths as “suspicious” and a homicide – but not murder. However, Canadian newspapers have cited a police theory that deaths were part of a murder-suicide.
Citing a “Toronto police source,” The Globe and Mail reported on Saturday that investigators were working on an early theory that Barry killed Honey before killing himself. The newspaper said the pair were found hanging from a railing near their basement pool.
The Toronto Sun also cited “sources close to the case” as saying Honey may have been killed in another spot in the house, then moved to the basement, where she and Barry were discovered.
But press reports have put the Shermans’ family at odds with the police. The couple’s children slammed any notion of suicide, saying in a statement on Sunday:
“Our parents shared an enthusiasm for life and commitment to their family and community totally inconsistent with the rumours regrettably circulated in the media as to the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
“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.”
The couple had been planning a trip to Florida with their friends later in December, with Honey arriving on December 18 and Barry arriving a week later. The couple were discovered dead on December 15.
Honey wrote in an email to her friends last Monday, as cited by The Globe and Mail: “Looking forward to getting together in Florida…Please let me know your dates south asap so i can place in my calendar… Looking forward to hearing back asap. Xoxo Honey.”
The political scandal Sherman was trying to shut down
Since Sherman’s death, there has been an increased focus on his political lobbying.
Around the time of his death, Sherman was trying to quash an investigation into whether a political fundraiser he held for Prime Minister Trudeau in 2015 violated lobbying rules, the Toronto Star reported on Tuesday.
In August 2015, Sherman hosted a $US1,500-per-head fundraiser for the Liberal Party at his house, which was attended by Justin Trudeau, who went on to become prime minister two months later.
Since January, Canada’s federal lobbying commissioner has been investigating whether the fundraiser violated government rules, which say lobbyists cannot lobby officials they helped get elected.
Sherman and his pharmaceutical company, Apotex, were registered to lobby the Prime Minister’s Office months after Trudeau took over the role, according to government watchdog Democracy Watch, which filed the complaint against the billionaire.
Sherman sued the lobbying commissioner earlier this year in a bid to shut down the investigation. In May, the billionaire called the probe an “unanchored fishing expedition” pursued in “bad faith,” Canadian news site iPolitics reported.
Canada’s lobbying commissioner, Karen Shepherd, confirmed on Tuesday that the investigation would continue despite Sherman’s death.
Police are also continuing their inquiry, with homicide detectives now leading on the case.