The Sherman family is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the prosecution of those who murdered Barry and Honey Sherman.
The investigative team hired by the family held a news conference to announce the new initiative on Friday.
Lawyer Brian Greenspan said a call centre has been established to collect tips and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The leads will be analyzed and vetted and any meaningful information will be conveyed immediately to Toronto police.” The toll-free number is 1-833-668-0001.
Greenspan said after over 10 months of silence and frustration, “the Sherman family felt it appropriate for the public to understand why they believe it is time for a new initiative.”
He added the Toronto Police Service investigation was “below standard” in many ways. Greenspan said they failed to collect sufficient fingerprint and DNA evidence that led to early statements by police that there had been no signs of forced entry.
“After police said there were no signs of forced entry and that they weren’t seeking any suspects, it left the wrong impression that this was a self-inflicted crime. This conveyed a false sense of security to the public and devastation to the Sherman family.”
Greenspan said they are trying to light the fire under the Toronto Police Service and to try to ensure those investigative steps which have not yet completed are taken and to encourage a two-way street because, “we believe the resources we can bring to this investigation will be helpful.”
Police Chief Mark Saunders addressed Greenspan’s concerns while defending the conduct of police during this investigation.
“This investigation has been done to a very high level of professionalism and expertise,” said Saunders while detailing that fact that over 50 officers are involved in the case and over 4,000 pages of documentation have been produced so far. “(This) leads me to conclude that the investigation was not taken lightly and still is not taken lightly.”
The billionaire couple were found dead, hanging from a railing near the swimming pool in the basement of their North York home, in December of last year. Autopsies confirmed both died from ligature neck compression.
While they initially treated the scene as a murder-suicide, Toronto police announced six weeks later that there was “sufficient evidence” to categorize their deaths as a double homicide.
Since that announcement there has been very little new information released to the public.
Saunders said police never reached a premature conclusion in this case and he pushed back on critical statements made by the family lawyer regarding the collection of evidence in this case.
“There are very few people that have the entire investigation. Mr. Greenspan does not have the entire investigation,” said Saunders while quoting from Justice Pringle that reading things out of context and in isolation, “bits and pieces of information have real potential to be misleading.”
“Homicide investigations are dynamic, they’re fluid in nature and the best person to make the decisions in real time are the lead investigators – the highly trained investigators.”
While he’s not opposed to accepting an offer of private resources to help in the investigation, Saunders said any information presented and collected still has to pass a high threshold.
“It has to withstand the integrity of the court of law, it has to withstand the continuity and it also has to go through that bias lens,” said Saunders. “It has to be done successfully to withstand the scrutiny that will be brought before any courts.”
Saunders went on to say he supports the family’s decision to put up a reward.
“Anything that helps lead to a successful conclusion is a good thing,” said Saunders. “We know that historically rewards don’t necessarily help when it comes to concluding cases but this is an opportunity that may offer great assistance. It certainly will put the investigation back in light again and hopefully there are people that as out there that have an understanding or have information that can help further this investigation.”
Saunders said at the end of the day, both sides have the same objective: “We want to bring those responsible before the judicial system.”
The Toronto Police Services Board issued a statement, saying it has been briefed on the investigation and the concerns raised by the Sherman family and that it has “full confidence” in the Chief’s oversight of the investigation.