Hello friends, welcome back to The Prairie Ordinary where we discuss the very unordinary. My name is Sabrina and today I would like to tell you about the tragic and mysterious death of Cindy James. Some believe it was murder, others speculate it was a suicide. I’d like to see what you think.
On a beautiful June day in 1989, in the bustling Richmond suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, shock rippled through the community. Heavy with foot-traffic, not much goes unnoticed on Richmond’s busy streets; that’s why everyone was so shocked when a body was found in the front yard of an abandoned home.
The body would be identified as Cindy James, a 44 year old nurse. The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) believed it was either an accident or elaborate suicide. In the next few minutes, I will tell you Cindy’s tragic story, and unfortunately, what happened to Cindy wasn’t done in a short amount of time. No, what happened to Cindy took place over the span of almost seven years.
~Get ready for Minute Mysteries Episode 2~
Born on June 12, 1944, in Oliver, B.C., to Otto and Tilly (Matilda) Hack, Cindy was the oldest of six children in her family. I wanted to find more about Cindy, and what she was like, but there wasn’t anything really to be found online.
In 1965, Cindy was just 19 when she married 37 year old Dr. Roy Makepeace, a man 18 years older than her.
A year after her wedding, in 1966, she graduated nursing school & would later go on to become the administrator of a preschool for children with behavioural and emotional issues. Cindy loved working with kids, and really liked helping kids that had a troubled home life or not the best upbringing.
In 1982, after being married for 17 years, Cindy filed for divorce from her husband, Dr. Makepeace. Only four months later, she began to receive “mysterious phone calls, sometimes whispering or completely silent.”And soon would start receiving letters mailed to her made up out of words cut out of newspapers and magazines. Because of the timing, a lot of people theorize that Dr. Makepeace was behind the messed up one-sided pen-pal-ship. However, there are a few books out there about Cindy’s life and death, but when I was researching, all sites I found with book listed were sold out. I did find a forum (https://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/archive/index.php/t-125433.html) that had a discussion on Cindy and Dr. Makepeace’s divorse, where user dynoguy88 wrote that Cindy and Dr. Makepeace seperated 3 months before the letters began, but the divorce wasn’t finalized for a few years. In that time, they wrote that Cindy and Dr. Makepeace were civil and remained friends, that they even dated off and on and even went on double dates with other partners. Dynoguy88 recommends that people read the books on Cindy’s case, as they have more details than what’s found online. But any copies that I could find online were selling anywhere from $80-$140 Canadian, and I… I can’t afford that.
It wasn’t long before Cindy told her parents about the phone calls and letters, and when the calls and letters went from creepy and unsettling to threatening her life, like one of the phone calls saying: “Cindy, dead meat soon.”; she turned to the police. However the police just brushed Cindy off and said the calls and letters were just pranks from the local youth.
After that, things got much worse.
At night, Cindy would hear noises outside her house. One night, her porch light was smashed, and when she tried to call the police to report it, she discovered her phone line had been cut.
The letters that she was receiving in the mail started coming without any postage on them, meaning someone put them in Cindy’s mailbox themselves. Then the letters began showing up on her door step. They were collages of words and letters clipped from magazines and newspapers, spelling: “death”, “kill”, “knife”, “love”, “pain”, “mangled”. One letter spelled out “Soon Cindy”.
Some of the letters Cindy received | Source: Melanie Hack’s Website
She got another letter that said “I See You”, with images of a woman being strangled, and a hand holding out a knife. She even found a note tucked under a windshield wiper of her car with the image of a body being pushed into a morgue. Raw meat started being delivered to her doorstep, which she always threw away.
WARNING: Animal cruelty: begins at * and ends at *.
*One night Cindy came home to find three dead cats hanging from trees in her front yard.*
She filed police reports, but the police said there wasn’t much they could do.
They reported that Cindy was reluctant and almost afraid to give them any information, and they were beginning to doubt her stories.
One night in January of 1983, one of Cindy’s best friends, Agnes Woodcock, stopped by to visit Cindy. She knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Those close to Cindy knew her routine of taking long evening baths to relax, so Agnes assumed this is what she was doing. She walked around to the back of the house, to try seeing if the bathroom light was on or to tap on the bathroom window, when she was startled to find someone crouched down, trying to hide.
Frightened, it took Agnes a minute to realize the person crouched down was Cindy. She called out to her, and once Cindy realized it was Agnes, she came out of hiding. Agnes noticed something was tied tightly around Cindy’s neck, and Cindy was visibly shaken. Agnes went to help her, and realized it was a black nylon stocking tied tightly around her neck that she helped her get off.
Cindy did her best to tell her what happened:
She had gone out into the garage to get something. While she was looking through boxes, someone suddenly grabbed her from behind, wrapped the black stocking around her neck and started to strangle her.
Frantically, Cindy looked around while she tried to get free, but all she could see were her attackers white sneakers.
During their quiet struggle, there was a noise from the front of the house. As quickly and as suddenly as it started, it stopped. The attacker was gone before Cindy even got a chance to look around.
Not wanting to take any chances, she ran to her backyard to hide, where Agnes, presumable the cause of the noise at the front of the house, would soon find her.
Sometimes Cindy would get multiple threatening phone calls a day, and then there would be nothing for months. She would begin to relax, hoping this was it, that it was over. But then everything would start up again.
WARNING: Animal cruelty: begins at * and ends at *.
*Cindy had a small dog, Heidi, and came home from work one day to find her shaking in fear, sitting in her own feces, with a cord tied tightly around her neck, most likely in an attempt to strangle her. Luckily her dog was otherwise unharmed.*
Cindy once again went to the police. They questioned her, and noticed that Cindy seemed to still be holding back information and “not acting as a victim should”. They were completely open and honest with her when they said that they didn’t believe her. In fact, they told her that they believed she was sending the letters and doing these things to herself.
Feeling utterly alone and out of options, Cindy moved to a new house, painted her car, and she changed her last name from Makepeace to James. Smart, you know, throw this person off the trail. And since she was getting no help from the police, Cindy decided to hire a private investigator, Ozzie Kaban. Also smart, get someone that can actually help you.
Ozzie started his investigation, and also quickly noticed that Cindy seemed to be holding back information. He spoke to Cindy’s parents and they too said they felt that Cindy was hiding something, that they believed the reason was that her attacker threatened to kill Cindy’s family if she were to name them.
Ozzie had lights installed on the outside of Cindy’s house, which gave her great visibility of the front yard, path, and driveway at night.
He also left her a two-way radio (not sure if it was a walkie-talkie? There is a difference!) equipped with a panic button that would alert Ozzie if Cindy couldn’t get to the phone, or in case the phone lines were cut again.
On the night of January 30, 1984, pretty much one year since the violent attack where Cindy was strangled with a nylon stocking, Ozzie heard strange noises coming through the radio.
Knowing he couldn’t just radio over and ask if she was alright and risk alerting the attacker, Ozzie rushed over to her house.
When Ozzie arrived, he couldn’t see or hear anyone.
I’ve read in reports that the door was locked and he couldn’t get in, and ended up seeing Cindy on the floor through a window. But other reports state he entered the house and found her lying motionless on the hallway floor with a knife pierced through her hand.
He managed to find a pulse and called 911.
Upon further investigation, it was found that the attacker had used the knife to pin a note to Cindy’s hand that read “You are a dead bitch”.
Cindy was taken to the hospital where Ozzie waited for her to come to. When she woke he asked her what she remembered of the attack. All she could remember was being woken from her sleep by someone putting a needle into her arm.
The police did not take any finger prints from the scene, from the knife through Cindy’s hand, or from the note.
They thought Cindy did this to herself. But Ozzie was adamant that no one, let alone Cindy, would have done this to themselves based off the angle of wounds.
Cindy wanted to do whatever she could to get information of that night to the police so that something could be done. She ended up undergoing a few hypnosis sessions, as well as agreeing to take a polygraph test that the police said would be used to gather information… What they really wanted was proof that she was lying.
But the polygraph resulted that Cindy was being honest and telling the truth when questioned. Cindy was hopeful that this was the first step to them taking some sort of action, but the police said Cindy was “too traumatized” to give any useful information to the case.
That being said, the police did do something. They set up 24 hour surveillance around Cindy’s home, sometimes with as many as 14 officers at a time. They also tapped her phone lines, so they would be able to hear the threatening calls.
Now, I know this is frustrating, but whoever was doing this of course stopped when surveillance was on the house. There were no phone calls, not letters, and no attacks.
Whoever it was, was probably watching her and knew when to stay away, or had inside information on police movements. And a lot of people believe that the attacker themselves was a police officer. While Cindy was under surveillance, she reportedly became “romantically involved” with one of the officers but that their relationship didn’t last long, and people theorize that the officer she became involved with was the attacker, working his way into her life.
Whoever it was though, they were successfully making Cindy look like she was losing her mind…
When police called off the surveillance, the calls, letters, and harassment started up again. They tried tracing the calls, but they were always just a few seconds long, too short to trace.
Almost one year later, Cindy was viciously attacked again.
On December 11th ,1985, Cindy was found barely conscious in a ditch about 10km from her home. She was wearing one men’s work boot, one glove, and had a black stocking tied tightly around her throat… She was covered in cuts and bruises, had a black eye and was suffering from hypothermia.
She had no memory of the night of the 11th.
Cindy was hospitalized, and when she had recovered and released, she asked her friend Agnes and Agne’s husband Tom to please come stay with her.
In the middle of the night, they woke to strange noises coming from downstairs. Tom went to investigate and found flames coming up from the basement. He yelled for someone to call 911, but, the phone lines were cut.
Tom ran outside to get help from a neighbour. Standing at the curb, staring at the house, was a man. Tom couldn’t make out who it was in the dark, but yelled for him to get help.
Instead of going to a neighbour’s house, the man turned and ran away down the street.
Tom managed to wake a neighbour and call for the fire department.
The police came to investigate and found that the fire had been started in the basement of Cindy’s house. After checking ONE specific window that the believed would have been the ONLY one the attacker would have used to access the basement, they found no fingerprints or signs of forced entry.
You guessed it, they told Cindy that they believed she set the fire herself.
Investigators pointed out that Cindy was still “comfortable” enough to walk her dog alone at night, so she must not have anything to be scared of.
Cindy’s family and doctor were becoming worried. She was described as being a beautiful, vibrant person. But over the years of harassment, they could see it was taking a very obvious toll on Cindy. Her vibrancy was fading, and she just looked lost.
Cindy’s doctor thought it would be best if she spent some time in the local psychiatric ward. She was admitted, and stayed there for 10 weeks. During this time, Cindy was not diagnosed with any sort of mental health illnesses, but it was reported that they also didn’t try to actively diagnose her, they just wanted to monitor her.
When Cindy was released, she went to her family and told them they were right. She knew who was behind the attacks and that they threatened to kill her family and friends if she told the police who they were.
At this point, Cindy was in a deep depression. She felt like she had totally lost her credibility, like the boy who cried wolf, except the wolf really had been there the whole time.
Cindy went to the police and told them she had been holding back, and that she knew her ex-husband, Dr. Roy Makepeace was the one that had been harassing and attacking her all these years.
The police went to question Dr. Makepeace, and of course, he denied everything. Instead, Dr. Makepeace offered the police a piece of evidence in his defence. He gave them the cassette tape from his answering machine. On it was a woman, who he claimed to be Cindy, leaving him death threats.
He told the police that he believed Cindy suffered from a split personality disorder. But when Cindy spent ten weeks at the psychiatric ward, she was never diagnosed with any type of disorder.
It’s also worth noting that Dr. Makepeace… was a psychiatrist. He would know just what to do to make Cindy look and feel like she was going crazy.
On May 25th, 1989, six years and seven months since Cindy received the first mysterious phone call, she went to the shopping centre to cash her paycheque from work and pick up a few groceries.
Cindy never returned home.
Her car was found in the shopping centre parking lot. Investigators found blood on the drivers door and the contents of her wallet were strewn about inside the car.
In the trunk they found the groceries, as well as a wrapped gift for someone.
Two weeks later, her body was found about 1.5km away from her home, her hands and feet bound behind her back and strangled in the front yard of an abandoned house.
The street had lots of heavy foot traffic, so it’s highly unlikely that she was there for the whole two weeks she was missing. Someone would have noticed her sooner.
Investigators believed Cindy had been kidnapped and held somewhere, then murdered and dumped in the front yard of the abandoned house.
The Autopsy showed however, that Cindy’s approximate time of death was the day she went missing.
Her body had many wounds, her hands and feet were bound behind her back, a black nylon stocking was tied tightly around her neck, and an injection mark was found on her arm.
No needle was found in or around her car, or in the yard of the abandoned house.
The toxicology results found that she had a high dose of morphine in her system, enough to cause and overdose.
The police changed their theory, and believe that Cindy injected herself with morphine, threw the needle somewhere that they have yet to locate, walked the 2.5 km to the abandoned house from the shopping centre (which is about half an hour) while probably feeling side effects such as a mental cloud, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, as well as delusions or hallucinations. After walking for 30 minutes and arriving at the abandoned house, they believe she proceeded to tie her hands and feet behind her back before strangling herself… how can you strangle yourself after your hands and feet are bound tightly behind your back?
Looking into Cindy’s purchase history they found no evidence that she ever purchased black pantyhose, and everyone close to her said that she never took any type of drugs.
The police said her death was either an elaborate suicide, or an accident.
The coroner however threw their claims in the trash and ruled her cause of death as unknown by morphine overdose.
Everyone who knew Cindy are certain this was murder, and that the police let it happen.
Dr. Makepeace was a suspect, but there was no evidence to link him to the crimes. There was also no real evidence to disprove Cindy suffered from some sort of split personality.
People theorize that Cindy went un-diagnosed, and as a nurse, had access to morphine, which triggered something in her that started the split personality.
But, Dr. Makepeace could also have access to morphine…
Either way, Cindy was terrorized for almost seven years. With little to no help from law enforcement, she ended up paying for it with her life.
After her death, investigators found Cindy’s journals and read just what kind of toll all this was having on her, and reading through her journals they could see the decline in her mental health over the years as the harassment got worse.
Cindy’s parents, Otto and Tilly (Matilda) Hack both passed away without receiving any answers or justice for their daughter. Otto passed away in 2010, and Tilly in 2012, both at the age of 90.
Dr. Roy Makepeace passed away in 2013 at the age of 87.
Cindy’s sister Melanie is working on writing a book called “Who Killed My Sister, My Friend”, (http://www.melaniehack.com) and continues to search for the answers and justice for her sisters death.
What happened to Cindy is nothing short of a tragedy. Thank you for taking your time to learn about Cindy and what she went through for almost seven years. I’m sorry there’s not much information to go on, and that we have no real answers, but that’s what makes this a minute mystery.
- The Real Life Invisible Man Case – What Happened To Cindy James? | Mystery & Makeup Bailey Sarian