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New role for lead investigator in Sherman murders

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The recently promoted Toronto police officer leading the Barry and Honey Sherman murder investigation is also now running the force’s citywide operations centre, police have confirmed.

Whether this is a sign that the investigation is wrapping up or at a standstill, is not explained in any of the public information the Star has been able to obtain regarding the case. Toronto police maintain the Sherman probe is “active” — but its lead investigator is now wearing a senior officer’s uniform and no longer working in homicide.

Susan Gomes has been the homicide investigator in charge of the Sherman case since the billionaire Toronto couple was found dead in their home a year ago.
Susan Gomes has been the homicide investigator in charge of the Sherman case since the billionaire Toronto couple was found dead in their home a year ago.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star file photo)

Susan Gomes has been the homicide investigator in charge of the Sherman case since the couple was found dead one year ago this month, and she was the one who took the microphone at police headquarters on Jan. 26 to announce their deaths were being investigated as a “targeted” double homicide.

For the six weeks previous, detectives had been exploring the possibility that the billionaire founder of drugmaker Apotex killed his wife, then took his own life. That changed after the family’s pathologist concluded it was a double murder and police detectives reviewed and agreed with the pathologist’s findings. The pathologist who did the police-led autopsy had missed key clues, the Star has reported.

Now, a year into the probe and in a move that is sure to raise eyebrows in policing and community circles, Gomes has been tapped by Chief Mark Saunders to take over command of the Toronto Police Operations Centre. Gomes was recently promoted from detective sergeant to inspector and will now be in uniform. Homicide detectives are plain clothes, non-uniform officers.

Read more:

Barry Sherman’s son tells Apotex CEO to leave

Where is Honey Sherman’s will?

Sherman family investigators hand over earring and other evidence collected at murdered billionaires’ home to Toronto police

A Toronto police spokesperson said it is not unusual for an officer, once moved to another job, to stay involved with a case. However, the Star is unaware of another example where a detective on a major, high-profile case (which the force says is being actively investigated) remains in charge of an investigation while doing a completely different job.

The police operations centre Gomes now commands “is a real-time, centralized hub whose primary functions are to continually monitor, assess, prioritize, co-ordinate and respond to the operational policing needs of the City of Toronto,” said a briefing note provided to the Star by police.

Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray would not say how many officers work in the unit Gomes is commanding, but described it as providing a “30,000-foot overview of everything that’s going on in the city.” That means if resources are needed to deal with a major incident — such as a flood, an outbreak of crime or a power outage — Gomes would order the deployment of officers.

The unit does not handle investigations, but is located at police headquarters along with the homicide unit, so Gomes “will be in close proximity to homicide,” Gray said.

Another recent promotion related to the Sherman case was Det. Brandon Price who, like Gomes, has been involved since the day the bodies were discovered. Price is now a detective sergeant, but will remain in homicide and work on the Sherman file, along with other cases. He is expected to eventually “transition” into the role of lead investigator on the Sherman case, a police official said.

Price was the officer who told reporters outside the Sherman home the night the bodies were discovered that police were “not currently seeking or looking for an outstanding suspect.” That comment, later echoed by police sources to several media outlets, led to stories that revealed police were probing a murder-suicide theory.

Barry and Honey Sherman, shown in a handout photo from the United Jewish Appeal, were discovered dead in their home on Dec. 15, 2017.
Barry and Honey Sherman, shown in a handout photo from the United Jewish Appeal, were discovered dead in their home on Dec. 15, 2017.  (United Jewish Appeal/The Canadian Press)

The Shermans were last seen alive on Dec. 13, 2017.

Two days later, a real estate agent showing a couple and another agent through the Sherman home discovered their bodies in their basement pool room. Autopsies revealed they died of ligature neck compression.

The Sherman family recently held a news conference to offer a $10-million reward in the case. At the conference, family lawyer Brian Greenspan criticized the Toronto police investigation.

Meanwhile, veteran Apotex employees are reeling from the decision last week by the Shermans’ son, Jonathon, to tell his father’s partner of 35 years, Jack Kay, to leave the company that Kay and Barry Sherman built. Sources within Apotex say they were surprised that Kay, 78, was treated that way and was not even given a farewell party. In a brief statement, Apotex spokesperson Jordan Berman said, “All of us at Apotex wish Jack the best of luck in his future pursuits.”

The Apotex company is now controlled and owned by Jonathon and his three sisters.

The Star has asked Jonathon Sherman questions about Kay’s dismissal, but he has not responded. Kay could not be reached for comment.

Kevin Donovan can be reached at (416) 312-3503 or kdonovan@thestar.ca. Follow him @_kevindonovan

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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