Nick and Lisa Masee: looking back on the mysterious disappearance
CBC News report from 1995 details baffling missing persons case of North Vancouver businessman and his wife
A renewed appeal for information on a 20-year-old missing persons mystery led CBC News to review an old report on the disappearance of North Vancouver businessman Nick Masee and his socialite wife, Lisa.
Here is the story CBC reported in 1995, a year after the Masees went missing.
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The night before they vanished, Nick and Lisa Masee turned down an invitation from friends to watch the Symphony of Fire fireworks display in Vancouver's English Bay.
Instead, the North Vancouver couple said they had an appointment to go to on that warm Wednesday evening. Nick Masee, a 55-year-old retired banker, had told several people he was to meet a man who wanted his help in investing $10 million.
Masee made a reservation for four at his favourite restaurant, Trader Vic's in Coal Harbour.
But no one from the party ever showed up, nor did anyone call to cancel — which restaurant staff felt was odd behaviour for Nick.
The couple were reportedly spotted together next door at the Westin Bayshore's Garden Lounge from roughly 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Nick Masee was wearing a jogging suit and the couple shared a bottle of wine.
The next morning, Aug. 11, 1994, his wife made two calls from his cellphone. She called her boss, and she called her husband's business partner to say they'd both be away for a few days.
The two calls were routed through Bowen Island's repeater, off West Vancouver, which means the call could have been made from the Sunshine Coast, but it also could have come from Point Grey on Vancouver's West Side.
No one has heard from either Nick or Lisa Masee since.
When Lisa Masee's sister tried to contact her a week later, she found the house unlocked and the car parked in the driveway.
Two plastic zip ties, or zap straps, were found on the ground by the front door.
Police said their passports had been left behind, and their bank accounts appeared to have been untouched.
"They may be dead, we don't know. We have absolutely no idea," Const. Mark Sylvester told CBC News, a year later, in 1995. "It's very, very strange."
Together 10 years
Police said Nick and Lisa Masee, who had both been married before, didn't appear to be leading high-risk lives.
Lisa, who was 39 when she went missing, met Nick when she was 29 years old and working at a hair salon on Cambie Street. She would cut his hair.
He had worked for the Bank of Montreal for 37 years, and had retired just eight months before he disappeared. But during his time in the private banking department, Nick Masee's path crossed with some of Vancouver's most controversial stock promoters.
One of his former clients, Murray Pezim, told CBC News in 1995 that he'd heard "all kinds of crazy stories."
"That he's been cemented or put away. Other stories that he's still alive, probably in hiding," he said.
But Pezim's favourite theory is that the Masees were in a witness protection program.
"I think he's alive and the police know where he his," Pezim said.
Howe Street, Cayman Island theories
One fact supporting the witness-in-hiding theory was that Masee had been scheduled to testify in a trial involving a former tennis partner who was accused of stealing $100,000. But police said Masee was only a minor witness.
Another possibility involved the Pineridge Capital Group scandal, in which millions of dollars went missing when the business collapsed in 1992. Nick Masee had been a personal banker for Harry Moll, who created the Pineridge group, and who later relocated to the Cayman Islands.
Private investigator Ozzie Kaban, who was hired by Nick Masee Jr. to find his father, said he was also looking beyond Vancouver's centre of investment on Howe Street, and into the local Dutch business community.
Fred Hoffman, an accountant who did business with Masee, went missing a few years before. Roughly $10 million of his clients' money disappeared at around the same time. One of those clients, a retired anesthesiologist from Seattle, was introduced by Masee to Hoffman, and lost $3 million when Hoffman disappeared. Kaban said the anesthesiologist had become unreachable since Masee went missing.
Investigators also found that the Masees had made a secret trip to the Cayman Islands in April 1994. They told no one where they were going, just that they had to go away.
Kaban said they opened a bank account while there and put in $50,000 worth of stock. CBC News learned the Masees also had wills drawn up during the trip.
Kaban said another theory floating around was that Nick Masee had either deliberately or inadvertently become involved in laundering a motorcycle gang's drug money.
Twenty years later, Kaban tells CBC News he believes Nick Masee was running from something, and that the day before the couple went missing, the former banker had attended a funeral and was distraught, saying he would leave town.
Neither Kaban nor police have been successful in tracking down the Masees, or finding out what happened to them.
Nick Masee would be 75 years old now, his wife Lisa would be 59. And their families still want answers.