Real Name: Cynthia Elizabeth James
Location: Richmond, British Columbia
Date: June 8, 1989
Details: In June 1989, the quiet Vancouver, British Columbia, suburb of Richmond was shocked when a body was found lying in the yard of an abandoned house. The victim was a forty-four-year-old nurse named Cindy James. She had been drugged and strangled, and her hands and feet had been tied behind her back. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police believed that her death was either an accident or suicide.
Cindy had graduated from nursing school in 1966. She later became the administrator for a pre-school for children with behavioral and emotional issues. She was married but did not have any children of her own. In July 1982, she and her husband separated. Four months later, she began receiving mysterious and sometimes threatening phone calls. During the next seven years, she reported nearly a hundred incidents of harassment. Five were violent physical attacks while others were whispering to silent phone calls. This got worse after she involved the police. At night, she heard prowlers. Her porch lights were smashed and her phone lines severed. According to her friend, Agnes Woodcock, she said bizarre notes began to appear on her doorstep. Someone was trying to scare her to death. She became reluctant and frightened to give details. Over time, the police began to doubt her stories.
One night in January 1983, Agnes dropped by Cindy's house for a visit and knocked on the door. There was no answer, so she assumed she was taking her bath. As she investigated, she came across her outside, crouched down with a nylon stocking tied tightly around her neck. She'd gone out to the garage to get a box and someone had grabbed her from behind. All she saw were white sneakers. Cindy moved to a new house, painted her car, and changed her last name. She also hired a private investigator, Ozzie Kaban.
The police continued their investigation and questioned her several times. Ozzie later reported that she wouldn't tell them the entire story. She would be evasive, would withhold information, and simply would not act as a normal victim would act. When the police gave her a polygraph, the examiner claimed that she was withholding information. Her mother, Tillie Hack, thinks the reason for her daughter's reluctance was that her attacker had threatened her sister and family. By naming him, her family would be killed.
On the night of January 30, 1984, Ozzie Kaban heard strange sounds coming over a two-way radio he had given Cindy and went straight to her house. He went around the house and found it was locked. Looking through a window, he found her lying on the floor with a paring knife through her hand. She was taken to the hospital where she later recalled being attacked and a needle going into her arm. Police never took fingerprints from a suspect, and there was no independent corroboration. Cindy saw this person sometimes accompanied by one or two others, or sometimes she said there were two or three people, but police could never find a suspect. The threatening phone calls continued, but they were too short to trace. There were never ones when the police had 24-hour surveillance on her house for days on end with up to fourteen officers, but when surveillance was off her house, another incident would happen.
As police became skeptical of the harassment, her parents believed her attacker was staying away to make them suspicious of her. On December 11, 1985, she was found dazed and semiconscious lying in a ditch six miles from her home. She was wearing a man's work boot and glove, and suffering from hypothermia. Cuts and bruises covered her body. A black nylon stocking had been tied tightly around her neck. She had no memory of what happened.
Agnes Woodcock and her husband, Tom, stayed with her, and one night heard noises and awoke to the basement in flames and the phone dead. Tom left the residence to alert the neighbors. He saw a man at the curb and asked him to call the fire department. Instead, he simply ran off down the street. The police suspected that Cindy had staged the incident. They found no dust or fingerprints disturbed on the outside of the windowsill. The fire was set inside the home. In order to set it, it was thought, the perpetrator would've needed to climb through this specific window. It was also considered odd that Cindy still freely walked her dog during the attacks.
Her doctor committed her to a local psychiatric ward, believing she was becoming suicidal. Ten weeks later, she left the hospital. Her father, Otto Hack, said that she finally admitted to her family and friends that she knew more than she was saying and would go after her perpetrator herself.
On May 25, 1989, six years and seven months after the first threatening phone call, Cindy disappeared. On the same day, her car was found in a neighborhood parking lot. Inside were groceries and a wrapped gift. There was blood on the driver’s side door and items from her wallet were under the car. Two weeks later, her body was found at the abandoned house. It looked like she had been brutally murdered. Her hands and feet were bound together behind her back. A black nylon stocking was tied tightly around her neck. Yet, an autopsy revealed that she died from an overdose of morphine and other drugs. Police concluded that she had committed suicide.
Ozzie didn't believe she would have been able to stage the scene, but others believed it was possible. In Vancouver, the coroner ruled that her death was not suicide, an accident, or a murder. They determined that she died of an "unknown event." Cindy's parents never doubted that their daughter was murdered. Otto believed the police did not investigate the possibility of homicide or of somebody murdering her, instead zeroing in on trying to prove that she committed suicide. They believe someone in Vancouver is getting away with murder.
Suspects: During the investigation Cindy's ex-husband, Roy Makepeace was a suspect along with Pat McBride, a lover of her who was a policeman. The man seen at the curb running away during the fire also is a suspect.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the February 13, 1991 episode. It has also been profiled on A Current Affair and various other media publications.
- Cindy James on Unsolved.com
- Who Killed My Sister, My Friend? - Website by Cindy's sister, Melanie
- Mystery man stalks woman for 6 long years - and finally kills her
- The Mysterious Death of Cindy James
- Vancouver's creepiest unsolved mysteries
- Cindy James Discussion on Reddit
- Cindy James at Find a Grave