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Cindy James was known to be a friendly and loving person. She didn’t drink excessively or touch drugs and married a man who was nearly two decades her senior. They shared a workplace where he was a doctor and she was a nurse. It was only a few months after they divorced that her life turned upside down.

Who Killed Cindy James?

A woman is found murdered after reporting more than 100 incidents of harassment and violence, but police think she staged the attacks herself.

This is a tragedy that unfolded over seven years of attacks and harassment by an unknown perpetrator. Her violent death – far from offering closure – was only the beginning of an agonizing journey through layers of family secrets, official negligence, and conflicting stories.

On June 8, 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 44-year old nurse named Cindy James. She had been drugged and strangled. Her hands and feet had been tied behind her back. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police believed that Cindy’s death was either an accident or suicide.

Soon after leaving her husband in 1981, James started receiving threatening phone calls. The police started to investigate but over the next several months, the harassment increased. She reported prowlers outside her house at night. Windows were smashed and phone cords cut. According to a friend, James claimed bizarre notes were being left on her doorstep, and that she had been attacked several times.

In the seven years before she died, Cindy reported nearly 100 incidents of harassment.  Five were violent physical attacks. Over time, the police began to doubt her stories. But Cindy’s parents never doubted that their daughter was murdered. Cindy’s father, Otto Hack:

“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 James story on A Current Affair

Cindy was the eldest of six children and was a nurse living and working in Richmond, British Columbia, on the outskirts of Vancouver. Her early life was, apparently, not all that eventful, not until she married Roy Makepeace, a psychiatrist twice her age. The marriage was not a success. They divorced in 1981. Months after the divorce was final, Cindy’s life filled up with events and never stopped until her death.  At age 19, she had married Dr. Roy Makepeace who was 18-years her senior. She worked as a nurse but also loved to counsel children with emotional problems. She seemed happy but when she decided to end her marriage in 1982 and move on with her life, all hell broke loose.

She had a fairly good relationship with her parents and she approached them first with the stories of harassment. She ended up going to the police because she was getting death threats by phone and by mail. With each incident, this beautiful, vibrant woman took one step down physically and mentally. She began to receive pictures of chopped up corpses in her mail, had pieces of rotting flesh sent to her home and frequently heard sounds akin to someone walking around the back of her home.  She then found a threatening note in her driveway.  The police watched over her house but yet another note was found the following day.

Cindy believed her ex-husband Roy Makepeace was behind the incidents and she called and confronted him. The police could not find any evidence that he was involved however and he even gave them a recording of a threatening message that had been left on his answering machine.

Three dead cats were found hanging in her garden, her porch lights were smashed and her phone lines cut. Bizarre notes began to appear on her doorstep and five violent physical attacks were reported.

Tillie Hack, Cindy’s mother, said Cindy told her she didn’t recognize the voice:

“She said it was just a voice. Sometimes it would change, the sound, and sometimes it was just whispering. Sometimes it was just nothing, just silence.”

Otto Hack, Cindy’s father, felt her daughter wasn’t telling everything she knew:

“Of course, I think that we should add a qualifier there that she was very, very reluctant to talk about this right to the end, and our feeling was that she was withholding something extremely vital.”

Over the next three months, she said that the harassment got worse. At night, she heard prowlers. Her porch lights were smashed and phone lines severed. According to Cindy’s friend, Agnes Woodcock, Cindy said bizarre notes began to appear on her doorstep:

“She told me many times that he wanted to scare her to death.  She said, ‘He doesn’t want to kill me, he wants to scare me to death.’” 

Cindy James

One night, Cindy’s good friend, Agnes Woodcock, dropped by and when there was no answer when she knocked on the door, she went around the back of the house and found Cindy crouched down with a nylon stocking tied around her neck. She had gone to the garage to get something and was allegedly grabbed from behind by an unidentified intruder.

“I went up and knocked on the door, there was no answer.  I assumed she was having her bath. She did every night. And I thought I heard something. I wasn’t sure what it was.

When Agnes investigated, she came across Cindy outside:

“I found her crouched down with a nylon tied tightly around her neck. Cindy said she’d gone out to the garage to get a box and someone grabbed her from behind. All she saw were white sneakers.

Messages were left on the windshield of her car along with a picture of a covered corpse being wheeled into a morgue. Raw meat was delivered to her house and even her dog, Heidi, was found shaking with fright sitting in her own feces with a cord tied tightly around her neck.

The harassment would stop and start again, leaving Cindy feeling more and more destabilized. She expressed her despair in her private journals.

Cindy moved to a new house, painted her car and changed her last name. She finally hired Ozzie Kaban, a local private investigator. The police were investigating but as time passed, they were starting to doubt her stories.

Her private investigator installed lights at her residence and gave her a two-way radio and a panic button. The police would do surveillance on a regular basis.

Her parents thought her attacker was smart enough to stay away at the proper times in order to make Cindy look more and more suspicious. Nowadays, we could trace the calls and know exactly who is zooming whom.

Cindy James

One night, Ozzie Kaban heard strange sounds coming over a two-way radio he had given Cindy. He went straight to her house:

“I went around the house and the house was locked. I was able to look into the house through a window and I found Cindy lying there. I took a look at her and I thought she was dead.”

Ozzie kicked in the door:

 “There was a note that was pinned with a paring knife through her hand. I went to the telephone and called 9-1-1 and within about two minutes she revived briefly, and then they took her to the hospital. She told me that she noticed a man coming through the gate.  The next thing that she remembers is being hit on the side of the head with a piece of wood or something of that nature. She then she remembered being held down on the floor, and she remembered a needle going into her arm.”

But to some, the incidents and her stories of harassment, seemed suspicious. Neal Hall covered the story for the Vancouver Sun:

“There was never a fingerprint from a suspect, there was no independent corroboration.  Cindy saw this person, or sometime she said there were two, sometimes three people. One and a half million dollars, it’s been estimated, the police spent investigating Cindy James’ complaints. More than a hundred incidents. And they could never find a suspect.”

Cindy said the threatening phone calls continued, but police said they were too short to trace. Neal Hall:
“They had 24-hour surveillance on her house for days on end, with up to fourteen officers. But never, when surveillance was on her house, never any, any event would happen. As soon as surveillance was taken off, of course then she’d get another incident that happened.”

Cindy’s mother doesn’t think that was odd:

“When the police were watching the house, we would say to them, ‘Well, you know, if it’s somebody doing that, then sure as heck he knows you’re there, and of course, nobody will do anything while you’re sitting there and watching.’”

Then, Cindy was found dazed and semi-conscious 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. Cindy said she had no memory of what happened. Cindy started asking Agnes, and her husband, Tom, to spend the night. On one occasion, Agnes said, she woke them up:

“Cindy came running to the door and said, ‘Tom, I heard a noise downstairs’, and Tom said, ‘I heard it too, it was like a loud thump.” 

When they went downstairs, Agnes said they discovered that the basement was in flames:

“So I ran to the phone and the phone was dead. So Tom went outside and got the neighbour and asked if he would call the fire department. And when he went out, there was a man standing on the curb, and Tom asked him, and he ran away down the street.”

Once again, the police suspected that Cindy staged the incident. Reporter Neal Hall said that Cindy’s behavior that night was odd:

“There was no dust or fingerprints disturbed on the outside of the windowsill. But somebody set the fires from inside the home. And would’ve had to climb through that window. Now that should have been one sign. Also, she said she was out walking her dog late at night that night. Now, if somebody was being attacked, why would they go out alone walking their dog, three o’clock in the morning? Does that make sense?”

Finally, Cindy’s doctor committed her to a local psychiatric ward. He believed she was becoming suicidal. Cindy’s psychotherapist, Allan Connolly:

“I think one of the things she found most difficult was that people didn’t believe her. She was always doubted. She knew she was doubted and that was what slowly drove her crazy. The fact that she wasn’t believed.”

Ten weeks later, Cindy left the hospital. Cindy’s father said that she finally admitted to her family and friends that she knew more than she was saying:

“She told me for the first time she was convinced who the perpetrator was, and in her own words, if the police can’t solve this, I’ll solve it for them.”

Cindy James

The night, Ozzie Kaban heard strange sounds coming over a two-way radio he had given Cindy he 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. 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 sceptical of the harassment, her parents believed her attacker was staying away to make them suspicious of her.

Her parents saw her condition deteriorating further and feared for her mental state. She was terrified and going downhill steadily.

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.

Cindy became very depressed because she felt that her credibility was destroyed and that no one believed that someone wanted her dead or was pushing her towards insanity. Her life was a living hell and while hospitalized, she wrote about committing suicide, ten weeks later she was released.

She told police that she believed her tormentor was her ex-husband Roy Makepeace. They encouraged her to phone him to confront him and they taped the conversation.

As a psychiatrist, Roy would have been familiar with the fine art of playing with her mind, but he totally denied any involvement during the conversation. This phone tape was played at the public inquest. In fact, Makepeace gave the police a recording from his own answering machine that contained a death threat.

Cindy James was either confused, psychotic or totally innocent, but she was sounding more and more out of it as her despair deepened. And it all ended when they found her body two weeks after she was reported missing.

Private investigator Ozzie Kaban – 1995

On May 25, 1989, six years and seven months after the first threatening phone call, Cindy James disappeared. On the same day, her car was found in a neighbourhood parking lot.  Inside were groceries and a wrapped gift. There was blood on the driver’s side door and items from Cindy’s wallet were under the car. Two weeks later, her body was found at an abandoned house.

It looked like Cindy James 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 Cindy died from an overdose of morphine and other drugs. Police concluded that Cindy had committed suicide.

Neal Hall, a Canadian journalist who wrote a book about the case thinks she killed herself but her investigator Ozzie Kaban disagrees. He does not buy that her body took two weeks to be found when it was so close to traffic and pedestrian walks. He believes her body might have been dumped.

The fact that she had an injection mark on her arm makes it hard to believe that she could have walked a mile and a half to the spot where they found her and then tie herself up after injecting herself. They found no needle close to her car or around the crime scene. The police think she ingested the morphine and had plenty of time to do the rest. But they found no evidence to that effect and no proof of purchase of black nylons.

Cindy also had a lover named Pat McBride who happened to be a cop. The police suspected him and Makepeace but had no concrete evidence against either one of them.

The evidence in this case was quite contradictory, incomplete and very baffling, so the police opted to blame Cindy.

Her ex-husband came to believe that Cindy had multiple personalities and was unaware that she was tormenting herself. She adored her dog and her parents and would have never tortured them willingly. Her father states that the investigation was never aimed at finding a perpetrator but at pinning the responsibility on his daughter.

Otto 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.

Cindy James news clip

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.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, however, believed her death to be an accident or a suicide. The Vancouver coroner ruled that Cindy’s death was not suicide, an accident, or a murder, claiming that she died of an ‘’unknown event.’’ This was despite the fact that in the seven years preceding her death, Cindy had reported nearly a hundred incidents of harassment beginning four months after she divorced her husband.

To this day, her death remains a mystery even after a public inquest at which 84 witnesses were called to testify. Her father Otto Hack and his wife Matilda never believed that Cindy killed herself or that she would have been able to stage the death scene.

Her sister Melanie Hack, who was 27 when Cindy died and who is now married with two children and lives in British Columbia, ended up writing a book titled Who Killed My Sister, My Friend.

It took her 14 years to conduct research into the toxicology, the autopsy, and the medical and police reports to obtain enough information into her sister’s unsolved death.

This case, which became the subject of the show Unsolved Mysteries and was discussed on some American TV talk shows including A Current Affair and Maury Povich, was not really sensationalized or kept alive to fuel anger towards a specific perpetrator. There was no villain or hero in this story; rather, it was the puzzling case of an upstanding nurse who struggled for seven years with an imagined or real threat and ended up losing her life in the most mysterious and baffling way. This story had legs and created endless speculation.

In 1989, forensics investigation was in its infancy and the technology did not exist to solve a case the CSI way, or to determine if James was creating her own drama. Instead, the investigators had to rely on basic traditional techniques to determine if her stories of attacks, kidnapping and harassment were true.

BrainScratch: Cindy James

* Pat McBride was present for several of the calls Cindy received.

* At least four phone calls were traced by the phone company. In early 1983, the phone company traced 4 calls that were answered by Cindy, but the calls were too short to trace anything but the exchange. The trace was able to determine the exchange on 3 of the 4 calls and all came from different exchanges.

* Detective Boyer-Smyth took one of the “no talk” calls when he was at Cindy’s place investigating.

There were other incidents verified or reported by someone other than Cindy.

* Once, with Cindy away from home, her downstairs tenant called the police when they heard someone upstairs (in Cindy’s part of the rented house). Police investigated but found nothing.

* Between Cindy’s PI Ozzie Kaban, and her sister Melanie, they answered multiple no talk calls at Cindy’s place with Cindy present.

* The first two lie detector tests judged Cindy to be, at a minimum, withholding information and rendered conclusions of “not truthful”. The third one, however, went Cindy’s way. During that one, she was asked if she staged a recent attack and if she wrote the note that was left at the scene. She answered no to both questions and all of her answers satisfied the police and test administrator; she was judged to be truthful.

* Multiple coworkers took calls from men looking for Cindy who wouldn’t identify themselves.

* Once, Cindy was playing cards late at night with friends when her alarm went off. Her friend was later quoted as saying Cindy was sitting right at the table when the alarm went off. When they researched, they found the glass window of her basement door had been removed.

* One of those same friends was present at one of the fires at Cindy’s place. When he went out the front door he found a man in front of the house (at about 2:30 am). The friend asked the stranger to go get help, but the man ran off and was never seen again.

* After the last attack (before the murder), a well known knot expert examined the knots from the ligature preserved from her attack. He concluded it to be “highly unlikely” Cindy could have tied herself up.

Melanie Hack, Cindys sister.

An excerpt from the book,Who Killed My Sister, My Friend by Melanie Hack:

For much of seven years starting in 1982, the life of my oldest sister, Cindy James, was a living hell, as though she were trapped in a horror novel from which there was no escape, except in death—but this was real. She suffered more than most of us will ever experience.

“I have been tormented and harassed by someone who knows me well enough to know what will really hurt me,” she wrote of her living nightmare.

She endured seven major physical assaults including kidnapping and several attempted murders, had her arms tied up tightly behind her and electrical tape sealed over her mouth, was injected with drugs, held at knife point, slashed, stabbed, sexually violated, and, time after time, strangled to near death with black nylon pantyhose. In addition, she was the object of harassment that included obscene and threatening phone calls, letters and notes made of words cut from newspaper, messages left on her car windshield with a picture of a covered corpse being wheeled into a morgue on a stretcher; raw meat delivered and dead cats left in and around her house—some with string around their necks and a note nearby saying, “You’re next”; damage to her property—broken windows, a slashed pillow, cut phone wires, and arson. Even her beloved dog, Heidi, had been found shaking with fright and sitting in her own feces, allegedly with cord wound tightly around her neck. The harassment would appear to cease for brief periods, then return, so Cindy never knew when something horrible would happen, so she had to be constantly alert, careful and watchful. In her journal she screamed at God, “How could you let this go on?” but he never heard her, or, she guessed, he never cared.

During those seven years Cindy changed her name, repainted her car a different colour, moved many times, and hired a private investigator she could hardly afford, who installed a two-way radio, alarms, and strong back porch lights at her home plus gave her an electronic “panic button”. Cindy endured polygraph tests that were scientifically unreliable due to her traumatized state. She tolerated hours of stressful and draining hypnosis sessions where she recounted and relived horrific visions in an attempt to share information that her attack-induced amnesia had kept hidden. And she suffered great emotional anguish from the resulting flashbacks and nightmares and became tense and afraid those nightmares or memories would overwhelm her.

Eventually Cindy’s constant tension led to exhaustion, depression and suicidal thoughts. She suffered a mental breakdown in 1985 that led to a brief hospital stay, although I didn’t know about it at the time. In 1986 she needed more medical intervention when she tried to starve herself to death after a fire destroyed her downstairs rec room and jeopardized the lives of her friends who were staying with her. That time she was in the hospital for months and I was concerned about how the harassment had led her to give up on life. Later I would hear and read the opinions of the doctors at the time, and how some had made snap judgments about her and didn’t take her harassment seriously. While I lived life oblivious to the broader picture, Cindy was bathed in doubt, humiliation and fear.

Fear was her constant companion. By June 15, 1988, Cindy was feeling a difference in her thinking, was easily distracted, and began to wonder if she had been brain-damaged by the assaults, especially the attempted strangling. With professional therapy she fought valiantly to be a survivor, not a victim. Because she was a private and proud individual, I did not have extensive knowledge, until much later, of most of the atrocities inflicted upon her. Over the years I was only given enough sketchy details of her harassment to make me wonder what was really going on. She sadly believed that others had enough problems in their own lives and did not need to be burdened with hers. To her journal she shared how vivid images of some of the more frightening things she could not talk about left her feeling “so alone … no one in the universe will ever understand … like I somehow live on a different planet from everyone else. Like I’m existing alongside them but always separate.”

During those seven years many theories developed about what was actually going on in Cindy’s world. Her friends, family, co-workers and private investigator believed she was being stalked and tormented by someone adept at covering his tracks—a stranger or clever sadist, or perhaps her ex-husband, Roy, maybe desperate to have her back after she left him. Roy believed the Mafia was harassing Cindy, or at the least, someone hired by a disgruntled parent at Cindy’s workplace. Ozzie Kaban, whom Cindy hired to provide security, would throw out the idea that maybe Roy was trying to drive his client crazy. Even the police thought Roy was the major suspect for almost five of those seven years although briefly turning their suspicion to a fellow police officer, Pat McBride. And early on, within the policing community, some officers doubted Cindy’s tales of terror, believing she was doing it to herself. Some people even speculated Ozzie was involved somehow; maybe he had been drawn into her web and began assisting her or covering up for her. Or maybe it was a combination of possibilities.

Although the evidence was contradictory, confusing and incomplete, the police ultimately believed Cindy was knowingly behind her own harassment, while Roy came to believe Cindy was a multiple personality, unaware she was tormenting herself. Even the doctors pulled into Cindy’s world had varying opinions. And as the evidence slowly unfolded for me, my thoughts and beliefs played a game of ping-pong, going back and forth over the possibilities, desperate for an answer. It seemed almost any scenario was possible, but one truth emerged: Appearing cloaked in a world of fear and loneliness, Cindy endured harassment—until she disappeared for the last time.

In Vancouver, the coroner ruled that Cindy’s death was not suicide, an accident, or a murder. They determined that she died of an “unknown event.”

Cindy’s family, however, believes there’s someone in Vancouver who’s getting away with murder.

The only undeniable truth in this story is that Cindy James suffered immensely in this saga and she paid with her life. Her journals tell the heart-wrenching story of a woman tortured mentally and physically — either by her own hand and mental illness or because of an unscrupulous and sadistic perpetrator who wanted to drive her crazy and eventually killed her. If she was an innocent victim, the lack of support from the police must have caused her excruciating pain. In my opinion nurse Cindy James was a victim either way.

Otto Hack died in 2010 after a distinguished career in the military. His wife Tillie passed away in 2012. They believed till the end that their daughter did not commit suicide. Their daughter Melanie continues their search for the truth.

Who Killed My Sister, My Friend – Melanie Hack

Cindy James – Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

Cindy James | Unsolved more Mysteries

Who Killed Nurse Cindy James? – The Trouble with Justice

The Crime Lady #028: A Baffling Mystery for Canada Day – TinyLetter

Cindy James? – Casebook Forums

Who killed My Sister, My Friend?: Did You Know Cindy James?

The 10 Most Compelling ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ | Thought Catalog

5 Creepiest Ways People Were Tormented For Years – Cracked.com

Unsolved Mysteries and Scary Stuff: Strange Cases of Stalkings | CXF …

Cindy James – Wikiwand

cindy james | Tumblr

“El Hombre Invisible”: el caso de Cindy James – Escrito con Sangre…

Historias de terror – “EL HOMBRE INVISIBLE”: EL CASO DE CINDY …

 


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