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barry and honey sherman

Police work around the scene at 50 Old Colony Rd., home of the Sherman family, in Toronto on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.Cole Burston//The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor John Tory has acted as a conduit for the family of Barry and Honey Sherman, telling police that relatives are upset with how the service has communicated information about the billionaire couple's deaths.

A spokesman for the mayor confirmed that Mr. Tory has spoken several times to the Shermans' relatives, both by phone and at last week's memorial service, where the mayor delivered remarks. Don Peat said in an e-mail that it was normal for Mr. Tory to reach out to the families of people who suffer violence in the city.

What is different here is the scale of public interest in the deaths of the Shermans, who were found in their North York home earlier this month. That interest has prompted a flurry of media coverage, some of it fed by inside information, which has raised ire among the Shermans' four adult children and extended family.

"Most of the mayor's conversation with the Sherman family involved him expressing condolences. The family did raise a concern that they were seeing information in the media before it was communicated to them by police," Mr. Peat said in an e-mail.

"The mayor conveyed those concerns to Toronto Police. He conveyed those concerns dispassionately and did not make any requests of police, but simply relayed their concerns about communication of information, similar to what he would do when other families he contacts have concerns with police or anyone else."

As part of his job, Mr. Tory is an ex officio member of the Toronto Police Services Board, which oversees the city's 5,200 police officers.

A spokesperson for Toronto Police declined to comment on the mayor's involvement in the case.

Within a day of the bodies being found, several media outlets, including The Globe and Mail, quoted police sources as saying the leading theory was murder-suicide. The suggestion sparked an immediate response from the couple's children, who released a public statement about the leaks.

"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 said, before urging police to conduct a thorough investigation. The family, which is conducting its own probe, declined to comment further through an Apotex spokesperson, noting they have already publicly communicated their concerns about the investigation.

Mr. Sherman, the founder of the generic drug-maker Apotex, and his wife were found in their home on Friday, Dec. 15. According to police, who are treating the deaths as "suspicious," they both died of strangulation. There was no sign of forced entry and the two were found hanging from a railing by the basement indoor swimming pool of their house.

Police are still investigating the deaths and have released little information as speculation has garnered international attention.

In the hours after news had emerged of the grisly discovery in the Sherman house, but long before the police confirmed the names of the victims, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins tweeted condolences that identified the couple. Several media outlets used his tweet as official confirmation of the couple's death.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the minister would not explain how he got that information, saying that Mr. Hoskins could not comment because of the ongoing investigation. She pointed to a subsequent statement from the minister that praised the couple but offered no explanation for Mr. Hoskins's tweet.

Privately owned Apotex is one of Canada's largest pharmaceutical companies, and the Shermans were worth an estimated $5-billion. The couple were considered leaders in the business and philanthropic communities, and were active political fundraisers. Mr. Sherman was also famously litigious: Apotex was founded in 1974 and has been continually involved in lawsuits with brand-name drug companies and rival generic manufacturers.

A police car is still stationed outside the Shermans' house on Old Colony Road, a cul de sac in north Toronto. Yellow police tape continues to block the unshovelled driveway and is draped across a For Sale sign on the home, which the couple recently listed for $6.9-million.

Neighbours on the street said that police had come by to ask if they had seen anything suspicious, and if they had front-facing security cameras that would have footage of the street. In the nearly two weeks since the bodies of Ms. Sherman, 70, and Mr. Sherman, 75, were discovered, Toronto officers have combed the inside of the 12,000-square-foot home and been seen checking the roof, garage and nearby sewers.

One resident, who did not wish to be identified, said that she has seen police at the house well into the evening. She said she feels unsafe and scared because of the deaths, and that others in the neighbourhood are worried about the safety of the community.

Thousands of people attended a memorial service for billionaire philanthropists Barry and Honey Sherman on Thursday. A Toronto city councillor said he hopes police can shed light on their deaths, which have been deemed suspicious.

The Canadian Press

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