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  • Writer's pictureJohn Wick

Who Was The Killer Of Cindy James?

On a warm day in June 1989, the battered body of a woman was found in the yard of an abandoned house. Cops quickly determined that she had committed suicide, but her six-year history of receiving threatening phone calls and enduring abusive stalking makes us think who killed Cindy James.

Finding the body

Peeling away from the rest of his team, a Vancouver road worker wandered over to an abandoned house, just out of sight of his colleagues. A sickly, putrid stench hung in the air. He didn't dwell on it for too long: after all the house was well known for its clandestine parties. The odd smell was more than likely a bag of rubbish, split open and left to fester in the summer heat. He made his way into the long, overgrown grass behind the property to relieve himself before getting back to work and that's when he noticed it.

Lying on its side in the yard, just a few feet away, was the body of a woman, hogtied with her hands and feet bound behind her back. There was a black nylon stocking wrapped tightly around her neck which had begun to dig into her skin. Her face was turning black from decomposition, contrasting against a head of golden, blond hair. Police already had an inkling as to who the deceased was before they even arrived on scene and their suspicions were confirmed shortly afterwards.

The body belonged to Cindy James, a local middle-aged woman who had disappeared two weeks beforehand. Her car had been found abandoned in a neighborhood car park. Inside, investigators found groceries and a wrapped gift. They also discovered blood on the driver's side door and contents from her purse had been placed or dropped underneath the vehicle.

Despite all the signs pointing towards foul play, police maintained that Cindy had committed suicide. Her blood contained high amounts of a morphine based drug, and it was theorized that she had overdosed, but even so, the coroner listed the cause of death, as an unknown event. This sparked controversy in the local community and split the opinions of armchair investigators all over the world. To even begin to understand such a curious enigma, we must go back to the very beginning.

Cindy James' Background

Born in 1944, Cindy Hack lived the first year of her life in Ontario, where her father, Otto, was stationed as an army doctor. Shortly after the Second World War had ended, the family moved to Vancouver so that Otto could attend university in the hopes of advancing his medical career. This proved unsuccessful, however, and when presented with the opportunity in 1949, he rejoined the military in a training capacity, meaning he would have to work all over the country.

This would characterize much of young Cindy's childhood-uprooted regularly, never staying in one place long enough to form the connections that are so important to children of her age. By all accounts, she was an incredibly bright child who loved books and aspired early on to become a nurse. However, she never really developed a social life as a child. Her parents actively discouraged her from making friends, possibly trying to protect her from the feelings of loss she would have to endure all too often with their itinerant lifestyle.

Cindy found even less companionship in her parents. Otto was a strict disciplinarian who treated her as a living house-made rather than a daughter. In 1962, her father's request to work overseas was granted and he intended to relocate the family to France. Now, a young independent woman of 18, Cindy refused to go with them. Unwilling to move abroad, but unable to stay in Ottawa, Cindy instead took a nursing course at Vancouver General Hospital, Moving into the nurses' dormitories on site. She was relatively happy in a new position, maintaining a B+ average at nursing school and visiting her family in France during the Summers of 1963 '64, and '65.

Much to her parents' shock, however, they later received a letter from Cindy, detailing the apparent suicide of her fiancé. Her family didn't even know she was engaged. Even her brother, Doug, who visited her regularly in Canada had never seen or heard anything about this mystery man.

Later in 1965, Cindy met a gentlemen at work by the name of Roy Makepeace, a 39 year old married man who had taken an interest in his much younger student. He began to tutor Cindy and the two quickly developed a sexual relationship. Roy divorced his wife in 1966, and in December of that year, he and Cindy were married. The pair had kept the relationship secret from her parents up to this point, as understandably, when Cindy didn't inform them via letter, they were appalled.

Cindy read Roy a scathing note, apparently from her mother, claiming he was taking advantage of her, though it soon transpired that Cindy had written the letter herself. Roy found this behavior incredibly strange, but simply passed it off as melodrama. Over the years, Cindy became more insular, screaming at Roy to leave her alone, even confiding to friends that he abused her. Roy admitted to slapping her in frustration only twice during their long relationship, but vehemently denied the level of abuse that Cindy was accusing him of.

The Peculiar Phone Calls

The two divorced in 1982 after 16 years of marriage, and Cindy moved into her own place shortly afterwards. This was a big step for the young nurse as she had never lived alone before. And this is when the terror began to unfold. Cindy began to suffer at the hands of an unseen assailant just a few months after moving in. It first began on the 7th of October 1982. She received a phone call that night, during which a raspy voice on the other end made obscene sexual threats towards her. Most horrifying of all was that the caller knew her name, saying it repeatedly to taunt her during the tirade.

Over the next few days, she received more calls from the stranger. On one occasion after hanging up, Cindy felt as though she was being watched. She closed the curtains before the phone rang again and this time the caller said: "Don't think pulling the drapes means I don't know you're in there". This was enough for Cindy to involve the police and when they visited her home on the 12th of October, they found nothing out of place in or around the property. Regardless, they advised her to keep a diary of any strange occurrences and to get an unlisted telephone number. She did as they asked, but the calls didn't stop. If anything, the harassment began to escalate.

Three days later on the 15th, Cindy and her friend, Agnes, returned to her home after dinner to find a window broken and her front door ajar. Horrifyingly, her bedroom pillows had been violently slashed and a front door key was found next to her bed. In the days that followed, she began to find notes made from magazine clippings, detailing violent threats against her. As the police became more involved, Cindy met Pat McBride, an officer who had been on the force for eight years. He made it his duty to frequently check in on Cindy and even moved into her spare room, later that month.

Despite this added security, Police found that Cindy's telephone wire had been cut early in November. McBride later found a pair of wire clippers on top of his toolbox which he did not remember using. The following month, Police found Roy, Cindy's ex-husband parked behind her house. He claimed that he was there to protect her, but admitted that she had not been aware of his presence. Roy asked Cindy to move in with him, but unable to trust him, she refused. Instead, she planned to move away.

Just days before she was due to relocate, Agnes found Cindy collapsed on her basement stairs. She was bleeding badly, having been cut 14 times. Cindy was asked about the attacker and claimed she didn't see his face, but there was a sense that she was withholding information. This was confirmed when she later confessed to her brother, Doug, that the attacker had told her not to look at him or else he would go after her family. Over the next year, Police would intermittently set up surveillance operations on Cindy's house watching day and night, sometimes for weeks at a time. At no point during any of this observation did any incident occur, yet as soon as the surveillance ceased, the calls and notes would return.

In 1983, Cindy moved again to a smaller house, closer to work. She took a vacation to escape the harassment and for a time, it seemed as though she had evaded her stalker for good. Unfortunately, this would turn out not to be the case. Upon returning to her job after months of Silence, Cindy discovered a note at her place of work reading, "Welcome back". In October that year, a cat was found on Cindy's lawn, strangled and with a note next to it, reading "You are next". Now fearing for her life, she was introduced to Ozzie Kaban a big-name security contractor who protected royalty, statesman and celebrities alike. However, even he could not protect her.

One night, Ozzie was called to Cindy's house. After his knocking went unanswered, he kicked the front door in to find her unconscious with a black stocking tightly around her neck and chillingly, a paring knife stabbed through a hand of her pinning a note which read: "Now you must die". By this time, Cindy had reached breaking point and after threatening suicide, was committed to Lionsgate Hospital under a new surname. After five days, doctors decided that she was no longer a suicide risk and released her into the care of her friends and family. Even so, the harassment continued. Again, Cindy relocated, this time to Richmond, trying once more to escape her waking nightmare.

Worsening of the events

Sadly, things only took a turn for the worse. On December the 5th 1985, Cindy was found dazed in a ditch more than six miles from her home. She was near hypothermic, wearing minimal clothing and, curiously a large men's work boot on one foot. She also wore a rubber glove, and had a stocking wrapped tightly around her throat. She was bruised and beaten, having suffered lacerations, a black eye, abrasions, as well as a needle mark on her inner elbow.

She had no recollection of what had happened. Having been briefed by Vancouver Police, the Richmond Police Department had seemingly come to the conclusion that Cindy was fabricating the assaults. They soon became tired of the constant call-outs, only to find no evidence to suggest the involvement of a third party. Regardless, her friends, Tom and Agnes stood by her and began staying overnight so that she could finally get some sleep, assuming that there would be no incidents whilst others were present. Late one April night, however, Cindy woke Tom saying she had heard a noise, which, incidentally, he had also noticed.

They ran downstairs to discover a fire had been started in the house. They tempted to call the fire department, but found that both the telephone line and the panic button Ozzie had installed had been disconnected. Some witnesses claimed that Cindy was calm up until the police arrived on the scene, only then did she begin crying and screaming which perplexed onlookers who were caught off guard by this sudden and dramatic display. Investigators concluded that Cindy was most likely the one who had started the fire. However, Tom and Agnes denied this, claiming Cindy would never endanger their lives.

Early the following month, Cindy was hospitalized for extreme depression. She was then transferred to another facility better equipped to cater for her, where she would be psychoanalyzed. She was diagnosed with hysteria, paranoia, schizophrenia, psychopathy and hypochondriasis. She was released after 10 weeks, but the torment soon restarted.

On October 26th, her panic button was pressed. She was found hogtied, naked from the waist down and choked with a stocking, halfway inside her car. She remembered nothing of how she got there. A knot expert claimed that she could not have restrained herself in such a way, however the police dismissed this. Her alarm went off multiple times over the coming months, but little credence was given to her situation. The apparent harassment continued unabated for the next three and a half years, before finally reached a tragic and horrifying conclusion.

On the evening of May the 25th 1989, Agnes visited Cindy's house for their scheduled game of bridge. She knocked, but heard nothing from inside the house. This instantly raised alarm bells. A search party was sent out and soon, her car was found in a nearby supermarket car park. Forensics were called, who went over the vehicle with a fine-toothed comb. They discovered the freshly purchased groceries, along with the gift for her friend's child and a receipt from depositing her paycheck at 7:58 p.m. that evening.

They also detected traces of blood on the driver's side door and found contents from Cindy's purse underneath the car. It appeared as though a kidnapping had taken place. Roy was the immediate suspect, but he had a strong alibi leaving investigators with little to go on. Cindy's body was discovered two weeks later and according to the man who found her, there had been no effort made to conceal her body. This time, the expert claimed that the knots would have easily been replicated by Cindy, demonstrating the technique to police.

The Suspects

Toxicology report showed a lethal dosage of morphine based medicine in the bloodstream, which was "unlikely to have been ingested involuntarily", according to investigators. The coroner's report listed the cause of death as an unknown event. And to this day, nobody has been charged in connection with the death of Cindy James. Despite being listed in this way, the police are adamant that the death was in fact a suicide, not one shred of evidence was ever found, clearly suggesting another party was involved, not a fingerprint, a hair or scrap of DNA. There were several suspects however; Roy makepeace primarily, as he was initially accused by Cindy and her family of being her attacker. During a hypnosis session in 1984, Cindy even recalled Roy murdering two people on a boating trip.

However, statements taken whilst under hypnosis offer a very little credibility in court. Moreover, Roy was found to have solid alibis for many of the assaults and calls, and was ruled out as a suspect. There was a strange man reportedly patrolling the street at the time of the fire, a neighbor confronted him but he ran away. Whilst this is curious, it is entirely possible that he was simply a curious onlooker out for a late stroll. Regardless, not nearly enough is known about him to form any kind of conclusion. The final and arguably the most convincing suspect is officer Pat McBride.

Over the course of the events, it became increasingly evident that he was romantically interested in Cindy, likely forming a relationship during his time as a lodger at her house. McBride in fact proposed to Cindy, but was refused. Despite this, the two remained good friends. One thing that does lend credence to this theory, however, is the fact that McBride was a police officer. This would give him exact knowledge of when and how the police were observing the house thus explaining why the incident stopped during these times and started to gain as soon as the police left.

Some people speculate that McBride may have been using his position of power, along with others in the department to cover up his tracks, but how credible can this really be? Some Police departments infamously have codes of silence, but surely, we can assume that in light of such depravity occurring, someone would have eventually blown the whistle.

Other theories are far-reaching, but not without value and certainly not without intrigue. After analysis, it was claimed that the voice heard in all the recorded phone calls was female, leading some to believe that Cindy had been involved romantically with a another woman. This perhaps explains what she was reluctant to open up to her friends and family- she may have secretly been gay and struggling to come to terms with her sexuality. The theory is that shortly after separating from Roy, she had a short-lived relationship with a female associate and that this associate was the one that went on to stalk her. This explanation as with so many others, falls victim to the fact that the investigation failed to identify a single perpetrator, male or female.

Two final theories both suggest that Cindy's mental instability played a crucial role in her death. There is the suggestion that she suffered from a disorder known as Munchausen Syndrome. People with this affliction compulsively create situations around themselves, often featuring physical and psychological distress in order to generate sympathy or gain attention. Some claim that Cindy was fabricating the harassment all along and that at the time of her death, she was attempting to stage another abduction. However, this time, it went too far and she accidentally overdosed.

Finally, there is the very chilling possibility that Cindy unwittingly stalked and killed herself. It has been suggested that she suffered with dissociative identity disorder or DID. DID is more commonly known as multiple personality disorder, where a person's psyche may contain two or more completely different and independent personalities who each take turns in controlling the physical body. During episodes where a recessive personality takes over, the sufferer may blackout, completely unaware of what they are doing while not in control. In Cindy's case, her recessive personality may have been the product of her loneliness as a child, which developed an unnatural detachment and self-loathing of the body it inhabited, ultimately wanting to destroy itself. In this way, the recessive personality may have tormented and even attacked Cindy's dominant personality, and this goes some way to explaining Cindy's black outs and the fact that nobody else was ever witnessed assaulting her.


So, is there a depraved murderer walking free in British Columbia to this day? Or was Cindy James, in fact, stalking herself, knowingly or otherwise? Or does the answer lie somewhere else entirely? This is one of the most talked about and divisive cases in recent memory, with new theories coming to light even now. But, despite this, the question of who killed Cindy James remains unanswered and sadly, it seems that this will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

Often when a case such as this receives such exposure, there can be a tendency to fictionalize and trivialize events for entertainment. However, it is important to remember that none of us knew Cindy as a human being, and cannot so rashly pass judgment upon her. Cindy James was a living, breathing person, with friends and family who still mourn her death and love her to this day. To those closest to her, we hope that all questions surrounding this case will one day be answered. May her soul rest in peace.


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