TORONTO — Along a row of gated mansions in north Toronto, past the Lamborghini SUV in the snowless drive, past the empty icy sidewalks, past the sold sign on the multimillion-dollar home next door, is a hole where 50 Old Colony Rd. used to be.
It was a mansion once itself, not long ago, though a modest one for a billionaire. Then it was a crime scene. Then a mystery gone cold. Now all that’s left is a big black box around nothing at all.
Two years ago, Barry Sherman, the 75-year-old billionaire founder of the Canadian pharmaceutical empire Apotex, and his wife Honey, 70, were found dead at this address. It was their home. A real estate agent discovered their bodies, strung up by belts on the railings around their indoor pool, on Dec. 14, 2017. The initial police theory had it as a murder suicide, then it became a targeted hit, then it devolved, as all famous unsolved crimes do, into a chaos of conjecture and public guesswork.
On Monday, two years and two days after the bodies were found, the lead investigator issued a rare public plea for new tips. In a press conference that seemed designed to demonstrate that police were still working on the case, Homicide Insp. Hank Idsinga laid out the investigative work police have already done:
· 243 witnesses interviewed;
· 150 items submitted for forensic testing;
· 4 terabytes of security footage reviewed;
· 73 judicial warrants served.
And yet, still no arrest.
Idsinga described the volume of information police have combed through as “overwhelming.” But he added that investigators are still hoping for more. “We have had some high-profile investigations in the past that have taken some time. I have had murder cases where I have made an arrest four years after the fact,” he said. “We have a Cold Case Squad that make arrests and close cases decades afterwards. I don’t think this case is going to fall into that category, but there is a lot of material that has got to be gone through before we get to a conclusion.”
In the two years since the killings, the case has been the subject of intense public scrutiny as well as parallel private and police investigations. The four Sherman children, furious at police leaks that initially blamed the deaths on Barry Sherman, hired their own team, including four former police detectives and a retired pathologist, to investigate. They offered a $10-million reward for information leading to an arrest. And at an unprecedented press conference last year, they had their lawyer, Brian Greenspan, flanked by the private detective team, publicly call out police failings in the case.
But all that, Idsinga said Monday, is in the past. The private investigation is over. He said from here on out, police alone will probe the case. “The Sherman family appreciates the hard work and dedication of the officers working on the case,” Idsinga said. “They are committed to working with us and have full confidence that the Toronto Police Service will solve this crime.
Idsinga asked that anyone who has passed on a tip to the private investigators now forward that same information to the police. He added that the police have set up a new, dedicated tips email — firstname.lastname@example.org — and made a point of emphasizing that only officers directly assigned to the case would have access to the account. When asked why, he replied: “I just want everyone to be reassured that we are respecting the privacy of the Sherman family as our investigation progresses.”
Idsinga offered no new details on the investigation. He wouldn’t speculate on motive, or method or possible suspects. He also took a shot at all the public rumours and guesswork surrounding the case. “I’ve said it in other investigations and I’ll say this in this investigation: If you don’t hear it from the primary investigator’s mouth or the major case manager’s mouth, then you’ve got to take everything with a grain of salt,” he said.
“I can’t imagine how disturbing it must be for the family and for loved ones of these victims to continually read about speculation in the media. I understand there’s a job to be done, but it does make it very difficult for them.”
Fourteen months after the murders, the Sherman family applied to have the house where their parents were murdered torn down. Last May, demolition began. Workers paved in the pool, ripped down the walls, and filled in the grounds with grass.
Today, a huge black fence of plywood and spray-paint lines the lot on the sidewalk side. Cut into the boards, on either end of the lot, are two peepholes framed with thick red tape. If you bend down and peer through them, what you’ll see is a rectangle of tree-lined emptiness. There are no foundations, no signs of the pool, no hints of the lives the Shermans once led or of who ended them or why.