MONTREAL, Canada (AFP) — Police were hunting for clues Saturday after the pharmaceutical billionaire Barry Sherman and his wife Honey were found dead in the basement of their Toronto home, in what investigators reportedly suspect was a murder-suicide.
The couple’s children, however, refuted that version of the events.
“Our parents shared an enthusiasm for life and commitment to their family and community totally inconsistent with the rumors regrettably circulated in the media as to the circumstances surrounding their deaths,” a statement read.
“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.”
They called for a “thorough, intensive and objective criminal investigation,” urging the media to refrain from reporting until the investigation is complete.
Investigators were still at the scene in the evening hours, a sprawling home in a tony neighborhood of Canada’s largest city, with post-mortem examinations under way to help determine how the couple died.
Police labeled the deaths “suspicious” after the bodies were discovered Friday, but clarified that no suspects were being sought.
The Toronto Sun and The Globe and Mail both reported that the deaths of the couple — who counted among Canada’s richest people and were known as charity fundraisers — were being probed as a possible murder-suicide.
The Globe and Mail cited a police source as saying the Shermans’ bodies were found hanging from a railing around a basement pool, the theory being that the 75-year-old chairman of the board of Apotex killed his wife Honey — five years his junior — hung her body and then hanged himself by the pool’s edge.
There were no apparent signs of premeditation or that either of the pair was suffering from depression. The couple had planned to spend the year-end holidays friends in Florida.
Apotex, which Sherman founded in 1974, confirmed the deaths. Local media said he was not seen at the company’s offices Thursday.
The company, which made its name producing generic drugs, grew to employ more than 11,000 people worldwide.
According to Forbes, Sherman had an estimated worth of $3.2 billion (Can$4.1 billion) at the time of his death, and was the 12th-richest person in Canada.
Canadian media said the Shermans had recently put their home up for sale with a price of around Can$7 million.
The deaths sparked an outpouring of sympathy from the country’s political elite.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “saddened” by the news, and tweeted about the “vision and spirit” of the couple known for their philanthropy.
Linda Frum, a member of the Canadian Senate, said she was “gutted by the loss” of the couple, two weeks after presenting a Senate medal “to one of the kindest and most beloved members of Canada’s Jewish community.”
They were “remarkable people,” said Bob Rae, former premier of Ontario province, which includes Toronto. “Grappling with this terrible news.”
Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care said he was saddened “beyond words.”
“Wonderful human beings, incredible philanthropists, great leaders in health care,” he wrote.
Apotex noted the couple had made significant donations to universities, saying their foundation had given more than Can$50 million over the past decade.