Family of billionaire couple Barry and Honey Sherman slams rumours circulating ahead of autopsy results

Toronto police say autopsies are being performed on two bodies found in a North York, Ont., home that belonged to billionaire Barry Sherman and his wife, Honey.

Scene outside the home of Apotex founder and his wife became site of makeshift memorial Saturday

Flowers and police tape seen outside the Toronto mansion of billionaire and noted philanthropist couple, Barry and Honey Sherman, where the pair were found dead Friday. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)

The family of Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife, Honey, are criticizing reports speculating about the cause of the couple's deaths ahead of the release of autopsy findings.

In a statement released Saturday, the family said "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 statement continued.

CBC News has not reported on any unverified details about what led to their deaths. Autopsies were taking place on Saturday.

The Sherman family statement called for a thorough and objective investigation by police and requested that media not report further on any cause of death until the investigation is complete.

Makeshift memorial set up outside home

The comments come one day after the noted philanthropist couple were found dead inside their Toronto home.

The snow-covered lot outside at 50 Old Colony Road became the site of a memorial Saturday, as investigators await the results of autopsies being performed on their bodies.
Autopsies were performed Saturday on Canadian pharmaceutical executive Barry Sherman and his wife, Honey. The results have not yet been released. (CBC)

Flowers and police tape could be seen outside the residence, from which their bodies were removed on stretchers Friday evening.

Emergency crews were called to the mansion in the Bayview Avenue and Highway 401 area around 11:45 a.m. ET Friday for reports of a medical emergency, where Toronto police say a male and a female were pronounced dead. 

Speaking to reporters outside the home on Friday, Det. Brandon Price said that while the deaths were considered "suspicious" they were not yet being treated as homicide.

On Saturday, police remained tight-lipped about the investigation. They have yet to confirm that the Shermans were the deceased, despite the family's statement, and Apotex confirming that its founder Barry Sherman and his wife had died.

A police source told CBC News on Friday that it was a non-family member who discovered the bodies.

Trying to 'determine if there is foul play'

Price said police are still trying to "determine if there is foul play involved or not. And at this point we cannot say 100 per cent with certainty if there is or there is not."

Price did confirm there were no signs of forced entry into the home and that police are not searching for any outstanding suspects. 

Police said Saturday they hoped to receive the results of the autopsies later in the day, but by Saturday night, no results had been released.

Meanwhile, officers were at the Shermans' property interviewing neighbours. A number of police vehicles were parked outside the mansion.

On Saturday, Const. David Hopkinson told CBC News police will combine the autopsy results with the findings of their investigation before coming to a conclusion about what happened. 

Police have not commented on where the pair were found in the house, whether a weapon was recovered, whether the bodies showed signs of trauma or when the Shermans were last seen alive.

One of two bodies removed from the home of billionaire founder of Canadian pharmaceutical firm Apotex Inc., Barry Sherman and his wife Honey, who were found dead under circumstances that police have described as "suspicious." (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

"We are poring over the evidence," Hopkinson said.

Sherman founded Apotex in 1974 after buying out his uncle's smaller company. The pharmaceutical giant produces and exports generic drugs to more than 115 countries worldwide, according to its website.

Along the way he amassed a vast fortune, recently estimated by Canadian Business magazine at $4.77 billion, making him the 15th richest person in the country.

The North York home where their bodies were found was registered to both Shermans, and had recently been put on the market for approximately $7 million.

The Shermans were among Canada's most generous philanthropists and also organized funding for charitable causes through the Apotex Foundation. The couple made numerous multimillion-dollar donations to hospitals, schools and charities and had buildings named in their honour.

Outpouring of grief

If the autopsies indicate that a homicide has occurred, the police's homicide squad will take over the investigation and detectives will talk to family members before they update the public, Hopkinson said Saturday.

If the autopsies indicate that the deaths were not criminal in nature, police will likely not provide an update to the public on the case, he added.

Meanwhile, news of the deaths has prompted an outpouring of grief from neighbours, friends, family, politicians and the business community alike.

Honey Sherman was a member of the board of the Baycrest Foundation and the York University Foundation. She also served on the boards of Mount Sinai's Women's Auxiliary, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the International American Joint Distribution Committee.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Toronto Mayor John Tory described the pair as "extraordinary citizens of the city of Toronto."

"Honey Sherman was a volunteer extraordinaire," he said. "She lit up any room that she came into. She was involved in so many causes in the Jewish community [and] many not…. She was at the centre of raising money and giving money.

"Barry Sherman was a more reserved man but a man who, over his business career, created hundreds and hundreds of jobs for people in the city of Toronto," he added.

"Their memories will live on for a long time because of what they did as two human beings that contributed a lot to our community and our country."

Tilak Malwatta was among the many people who went to the Shermans' home on Saturday to pay their respects.

With flowers in hand and tears in his eyes, the 28-year Apotex distribution employee said he felt it was important to come to express his admiration and sympathies for the Shermans.

"He's a wonderful man," Malwatta said of the Apotex founder. "What he's done for the country, society and community…. This is very, very sad. I give my deepest sympathies and condolences for the family." 
Apotex employee Tilak Malwatta went to the Shermans' home Saturday to pay his respects. (CBC)

With files from The Canadian Press