On June 8th, 1989 police on route to a scene where a body had been found near an abandoned house in Richmond, British Columbia, already suspected who it may be. As they arrived on scene, their police instincts were correct. The body was that of 44 year old Nurse Cindy James, who had been reported missing since May 25th, 1989.
The same day she had gone missing, police located her automobile in a neighborhood parking lot a short distance from where she had lived. There were groceries in the backseat and a wrapped gift for a friend. Underneath the car were the scattered contents of Cindy's purse. And even more alarming there was blood on the driver's side door. There was no sign of Cindy and a brief search was initiated without results.
On June 8th, when police investigated the scene at the abandoned house, they noted that it appeared Cindy was abducted and brutally murdered. Her hands and feet were tied behind her back and a black nylon stocking was bound tightly around her neck. At first glance it appeared as if she had expired by asphyxiation, but later, during an autopsy, it was determined that she had died from a lethal dose of morphine and other unattributed drugs.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated extensively and came to the conclusion that Cindy James died of either an accident or suicide. The official cause of death, however, was determined by the coroner who indicated that Cindy was not a victim of a vicious murder, nor accident nor suicide. Officially, the corner ruled that Cindy James' death was a result of an unknown event.
This is Unsolved Mysteries of the World Season XX Episode XX The Phantom Stalker, The Cindy James Mystery.
Otto Hack, Cindy's father stated “The police did not investigate the possibility of homicide, of somebody murdering her, but zeroed in on trying to prove that she committed suicide.”
Cindy once told her mother that she needed help and that she feared, not only for her own life, but that of her mother. But she remained silent about what exactly it was that was so menacing.
Cindy, by all accounts had a good upbringing and graduated nursing school in 1966. At 19, she married Dr. Roy Makepeace, a man 18 years her senior. She worked as a nurse, but loved her second job as a Councillor to children with emotional problems. She enjoyed working with children but had none of her own.
In 1982, however, her life started unraveling. Her marriage to Dr. Makepeace ended in divorce and Cindy found herself alone working longer hours. Four months after her marriage had ended, Cindy reported having had strange phone calls. The phone calls, Cindy claimed were from an unknown person, whispering her name and uttering threats. During one phone call, Cindy hung up and drew the blinds of her front window. The caller rang again and said that there is no use in hiding, that he knows she is in the living room. The calls continued, and the stalking would escalate significantly.
For the next seven years she reported these calls and once encouraged to involve the police, the incidents were more frequent and alarming. Cindy reported over 100 incidents to police including hearing prowlers at night around her house, her porch light smashed and her phone line cut.
mysterious notes would appear on her doorstep. Ones reading “You will die!” and “Cindy I see You”
After dozens upon dozens of visits to the home to investigate, police thought that Cindy was perhaps just seeking attention.
Then one night in January of 1983, things took a darker turn. Agnes Woodcock, Cindy's best friend came over to visit but found that Cindy was not answering the door. As she investigated she found Cindy outside crouched down with a nylon stocking tied around her neck. Cindy said she had went outside to the garage to get a box and someone had grabbed her from behind and attempted to murder her. She claimed all she saw was white sneakers.
Afraid for her life, Cindy moved out, painted her car a different color and changed her last name.
But the phone calls continued. The notes left on the doorstep were ever present and now, they were accompanied by strangled cats.
Police were monitoring Cindy and investigating each time an incident was noted. Frustrated by the lack of police help with the situation, she hired on a private investigator who would act as a personal body guard and who would hopefully find out who the phantom stalker was.
Ozzie Kaban, the private investigator, said he felt Cindy was not telling the whole story and that she was holding something back. He said 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.
Ozzie Kaban had taken this into consideration and on the night of January 30, 1984, he heard strange sounds coming over a two-way radio he had given Cindy and went straight to her house.
He arrived at her front door, but it was locked. The back door was also 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. She was also treated for superficial cuts all over body, face and head.
Police investigated once again, but found no forced entry, and could not find any other evidence to suggest someone had been at the house, other than Cindy James.
Police tried to trace the ongoing phone calls but they were all too short to be of any value. No suspect description was given by Cindy, but now she claimed that there may be multiple stalkers as she said she had witnessed perhaps two or three during the knife attack. Police now openly admitted that they were questioning Cindy's mental health.
Shortly after, her garage was deliberately set on fire, but after a quick investigation, police indicated they believed Cindy started the fire herself.
Her friend Agnes along with Agnes' husband Tom were asked to spend the night at Cindy's house one evening as she felt particularly paranoid about a call she had received earlier. As they retired for the evening they heard a noise and when Tom went to investigate they found the basement in flames. When Agnes went to call the fire department, the phone line was cut. The three managed to escape the fire, but when Tom went to alert the neighbors he came across a man standing on the sidewalk a short distance away. When Tom asked him if he could call the fire department, he simply turned and ran away.
When the fire was out and investigated, again, police suspected Cindy had set the blaze herself and cut the phone line just prior. They noted that the basement windows were dusty and not disturbed, nor opened and that someone inside the home had most likely been the arsonist.
On December 11, 1985, Cindy 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 and a black nylon stocking had been tied tightly around her neck. She had no memory of what happened.
Cindy's doctor believed she was depressed and suicidal and admitted her into a Vancouver psychiatric hospital for care and observation. In the hospital she wrote herself notes. On one note in read “I still feel as if suicide is my best option in an unbearable situation. As soon as I get out of here, I will carry on my plan.”
She told psychiatrists that she was depressed and angry that no one believed she was being stalked and that someone wanted her dead. When pressed by doctors she indicated she thought her former husband, Dr. Makepeace was the stalker.
After several months, Cindy was released, but the stalking, again, immediately picked up. Police were once alerted and this time a detective took a keen interest into the situation. RCMP Detective Pat McBride moved into Cindy's house to protect her and find out what was really going on. It is also suspected he was romantically involved with Cindy. While Pat was living at the house, no calls were made in his presence. And notes or other strange incidents only occurred when police were not on surveillance duties making some arm-chair detectives doubt Pat McBride's intentions and making some to believe that he was perhaps the stalker and eventually the murderer. It may be far reaching to suspect an RCMP officer of such actions, but, just like police at the time – there were no good suspects, if any at all.
Pat McBride moved out of Cindy's house and left her, in her mind, with only one way forward. She was going to confront the stalker and take things into her own hands.
She in turn, started stalking her ex husband, Dr. Makepeace.
Police thoroughly investigated the doctor and found no evidence that he was in any way involved. In the midst of the police investigating the Dr., he presented them with a recording left on his very own answering machine from the stalker allegedly targeting his ex-wife. It was the first time he had ever received such a call. Here is the recording:
Police analyzed the voice and determined it was a women's voice and most likely Cindy herself. Two weeks after they confronted her about the recording they were called to Cindy's house. She unconscious, naked from the waist down in her driver's seat with a black stalking tied around her neck. Another black stalking was loosely tied around her feet and hands and then bound behind her.
In a taped interview about the incident Cindy describes what had happened to her:
Police again suspected that Cindy was suffering from mental health issues and urged her to see her doctor. Cindy indicated she would do so, but according to her employer, Vancouver General Hospital, she took her paycheck and asked for a five day leave to clear her head. Her car was later found in the neighborhood parking lot, near the bank, the check not deposited. Cindy, it appeared was abducted.
But later, Police believed Cindy had accidentally committed suicide. They indicate they believe she had drugged herself, tied herself and stumbled and died near the abandoned house in the yard where she was found.
Ozzie Kaban, the private investigator, however, believes that it was indeed a stalking and a vicious murder. He explains that the amount of drugs found in Cindy's body would have incapacitated her and she would have never had been able to tie to knots around her body, especially tying her arms and legs behind her back. He also indicates that there was no needle on or near Cindy, as would be the case if she self-injected at the site. Further, he states she was found one and half miles from her car, barefoot and there are no witnesses that have come forward to say they saw her walking, or injecting herself, or tying herself up.
Police speculate that Cindy ingested morphine tablets and did not use a needle to inject the drug. The other drug, that was more prevalent in her body was Flurazepam, a drug similar to Valium. It was also a drug Cindy was prescribed to be used to help her with her insomnia. The drug, along with the amount of morphine in her system was enough to kill her, but it would have taken between 15 to 45 minutes for the action to take effect. Police indicate that this would have given her plenty of time to tie herself up.
But what about the knots and the way Cindy was tied up? Surly, one cannot tie their hands and feet behind their backs?
Police also called upon an expert to look into the knots and the way the restraints were bound. He concluded that one could have done exactly the same knots and tie themselves up in a similar matter. In fact, he demonstrated it, in front of police and it took him less than three minutes to complete the task.
Now clearly, this was a case of schizophrenia or some other mental health disorder and clearly a suicide, right?
Not so fast. If we look at where the body was found, that conclusion starts to seed doubt. Cindy's body was found in decomposition. Rigamortus had already set in, and her body produced the sweet, awful smell of rotten flesh. She was found in the front side yard of an abandoned house, but one that was not, really uninhabited. A squatter, living in a van just five metres from the body, never noticed it, for over a week, even though Cindy was wearing a white top and a jogger had spotted her from the roadway. And that jogger said they did that same route twice before and never saw a body in that location.
Furthermore, teens used to use the abandoned house as a hangout spot. They indicated they would knock on the squatters windows and rock his van to get kicks. They also indicated that they had two small parties that week at the abandoned house, yet, despite all the traffic and reveling, had not noticed a body laying in the yard wearing a bright white top and bound up.
Speculation among those that believe Cindy was actually stalked and murdered is that her body was dumped there the same day as the discovery of her corpse.
Further speculation is cast upon evidence gathered by police, but not followed up upon. At two of the attack scenes involving Cindy, a brand of cigarette butts not belonging to her, were collected. In addition, at one scene two grey pubic hairs were extracted from Cindy's pubic area, that did not belong to her. It is uncertain what police did with this evidence.
After Cindy's case was concluded by the coroner and an inquest into her death, her ex husband, Dr. Makepeace and her sister both received odd, threatening phone calls. It is speculated that these were mean tricks pulled by pranksters.
The RCMP refused to offer interviews about the case to the media and have said the case has been concluded.
There are some that believe that perhaps, The RCMP, themselves were somehow involved with the harassment and ultimately the death of Cindy James. And certainly, it is very odd that an RCMP officer would end up being the move-in lover of someone they feel is mentally ill, vulnerable and defenseless. But there were over fourteen officers involved in the case, along with dozens of others on the outside that would have had to keep a secret all these years.
Others point to the fact that the voice messages left were of a female, speculating that Cindy's stalker was a female lover. But, again, there is no evidence of this and it is just wild speculation.
The only viable suspect is the ex-husband, but police had cleared him early on.
So was Cindy harassed, assaulted and ultimately murdered by an unknown person? Or was the stalker a phantom in her unconscious mind? Is there, still a sadistic man, awaiting his next victim? Or is the human brain capable of doing sadistic deeds upon its own body and soul?