Private detectives working for the children of billionaire murder victims Barry and Honey Sherman are passing tips to police weekly but are frustrated the relationship is not a “two-way street,” says the Sherman family lawyer.
Five months ago, lawyer Brian Greenspan announced a $10 million reward from the Sherman family for information leading to the “apprehension and prosecution” of the murderer or murderers of the Apotex founder and his wife.
“We decided to just pass everything on to police,” Greenspan told the Star, referring to all telephone calls and emails received. “We have made it all available electronically.”
Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said the police review all information they receive to determine the “relevancy to the case.” But she said unless they are required by law, “we are under no obligation to share our investigative tactics, processes, leads, evidence, etc. with anyone outside of the service.”
Gray said to do so “could compromise the integrity of the investigation and jeopardize our goal of reaching a successful conclusion.”
But what Greenspan was hoping for was feedback from the Toronto homicide squad of a certain kind. He and his team wanted to know if their ongoing private inquiries would impact what police were doing in their official investigation.
“What if we wanted to interview certain people? Will the interview interfere with what (police) are doing?” Greenspan said, speaking for his team of retired homicide detectives. “We were concerned we would step on toes, that all of a sudden we would come in and screw it up.”
All calls generated by the reward offer were directed to Greenspan’s private team, with an expert panel set up to assess their importance. Five months ago, when the award was announced, Greenspan said he invited Chief Mark Saunders to provide an officer to join that review panel. Plans changed, and the panel has never met. The committee will only meet, Greenspan said, if a decision has to be made on a reward payout.
Further, Greenspan said he wanted to know if “what we are doing is redundant or inconsistent” with what police have been or are doing.
Police — the investigation is run by Det. Sgt. Brandon Price — have not complied with Greenspan’s request and sources have told the Star the relationship between private and official detectives is “frosty, to say the least.” Chief Mark Saunders was immediately cool following the reward press conference to Greenspan’s idea of a public-private partnership on the investigation. Saunders later blasted the private team for some of its remarks about the crime scene, saying he knew “for a fact” that the “suspect or suspects” are watching media coverage of the case and everyone had to be careful not to provide information that would “help” the killers.
To devise a protocol for the private team to pass on tips or evidence, Toronto police hired a lawyer, Scott Hutchison. That’s how the infamous vacuum cleaner bag — Greenspan’s team said they vacuumed the crime scene because police did not — was turned over to police last year.
Greenspan, a veteran criminal lawyer who has dealt with police his entire career, said simply in a recent interview, asked about the level of co-operation, “It’s not a two-way street.”
Barry and Honey Sherman were last seen alive early in the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. Their bodies were discovered two days later, on Friday morning. They were found by one of the family’s real estate agents in the basement of their home on Old Colony Rd., which was for sale. Both were in a seated position, backs to the indoor swimming pool, each held in that position by a man’s leather belt looped around the neck and tied to a metre-high railing. Both Shermans died of ligature strangulation. Initially police pursued a theory of murder suicide.
Greenspan was retained on the Saturday morning to provide advice to the four Sherman children, Jonathon, Lauren, Alexandra and Kaelen who said in a statement later that Saturday they had been “shocked” at the rumours circulating about their parents who, they said, “shared an enthusiasm for life.”
First step for Greenspan was to hire a forensic pathologist to do a second set of autopsies, a move that led to the police eventually ruling it a targeted, double homicide. Next was to have his team begin interviews. Often his team and the police interviewed many of the same people, including the Sherman children, aunts and uncles, lawyers, financial advisers, cousins and also business associates of Barry’s. Greenspan noted that in a homicide investigation, it is natural to “start at the centre and move outward, eliminating suspects as you proceed.”
Now he is at the point where there are some people he would like to reinterview and he was hoping the police would tell him whether that would cause them any concern. There has been no response. The one successful bit of communication between police and the Shermans came last summer, when Toronto homicide detectives sat down on a semi-frequent basis with two of the Sherman children and provided briefings of the progress of the investigation. That has not happened for some time.
The difference between the two private and public investigative bodies is that the police have search warrant powers through the courts, and the Star learned last week from Homicide Insp. Hank Idsinga that more search warrants have recently been obtained in the case. Idsinga has also said that his officers are now reviewing CCTV footage and DNA evidence to determine if there is “relevance” to the investigation. More than that, Idsinga would not say.
But what became of the tip line and the family’s $10 million reward, a staggering amount of money, millions of dollars more than has ever been offered in a Canadian murder case.
Greenspan said the reward generated a flurry of tips, including some that went directly to him. He would not describe the specific nature of the tips, but conceded that some came from psychics and some from people with no knowledge of the case, but who were trying to be helpful. “One woman emails me 100 times a week,” he said. “A lot of the stuff we got is useless.”
But Greenspan said one never knows where a grain of important information will be discovered. For that reason, he has instructed one of the private detectives on his team to deliver the tip information “directly” to police, on a weekly basis.
“We have been generous in providing the Toronto Police Service with information derived from telephone calls and emails to the tip line, and information from many people who contacted me directly.”
Kevin Donovan can be reached at (416) 312-3503 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @_kevindonovan