Last Dec. 15, two real estate agents arrived at a sprawling modern house near the northern edge of Toronto. They were accompanied by a couple who were considering buying the 12,000-square-foot mansion at 50 Old Colony Rd., recently listed for just shy of C$7 million. With five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a gym, a sauna, a tennis court, and underground parking for six cars, it was one of the more impressive properties on a street lined with grand homes. The sellers, pharmaceuticals billionaire Barry Sherman, 75, and his wife, Honey, 70, had lived there for more than two decades but were preparing to build a house closer to the center of the city.
The Shermans weren’t supposed to be home that day. It was midmorning, and a housekeeper was doing her semiweekly cleaning while another woman watered the plants. The tour took in the hexagonal entrance foyer, with its chandelier and black tile floors, and the spacious kitchen, soaked in natural light from a broad conservatory window over the sink. In the basement, the Shermans’ agent had something more unusual to show off: a lap pool and hot tub, handy in a city where winter weather can drag into April.
The pool was at the rear of the house, adjacent to a sunken garage and accessible from the rest of the basement by a long, narrow hallway. The agent, entering first, was the one who found them. Barry and Honey, spouses of more than 40 years, were side by side on the floor, their necks tied with men’s leather belts to a metal railing, about three and a half feet high, that ran around one end of the pool. Barry, heavyset with a crown of frizzy, thinning gray-and-brown hair, was seated, legs extended forward and crossed neatly at the ankles. Honey, who had a blond bob and an athletic frame, was slumped on her side and appeared to have been struck on her face. Their arms were drawn back, held in place by coats pulled down below their shoulders. Both were facing away from the water and fully clothed, although one of the belts seemed to have been taken from Barry’s trousers. It was impossible to tell how long they’d been dead.
Within hours, the deaths were the biggest story in Canada. Barry Sherman was the chairman of Apotex Inc., a privately held generic drug company that he founded in the mid-1970s. It’s now the country’s premier pharmaceutical manufacturer, accounting for as many as 1 in 5 Canadian prescriptions, and the rare large domestic drugmaker never to have been swallowed up by a foreign rival. With a fortune that the Bloomberg Billionaires Index placed at $3.6 billion at the time of his death, Sherman was Canada’s 18th-richest person, and he and Honey were among the country’s most generous philanthropists, supporting cultural and educational institutions, antipoverty organizations, and, despite Sherman’s avowed atheism, a panoply of Jewish causes.