I worked for the Vancouver Stock Exchange in the late 1980s—the same time that Forbes Magazine published a cover story calling it the “Scam Capital of the World.” While I never met Nick Masee, the mysterious disappearance of he and his wife in August 1994 has always intrigued me. This is a short excerpt from Cold Case Vancouver.
Before Nick Masee retired from his job as head of private banking with the Bank of Montreal, he worked for some of the Vancouver Stock Exchange’s most colourful stock promoters, regularly socializing with high-rollers such as Murray Pezim, Harry Moll, Nelson Skalbania and Herb Capozzi.
Nick, 55, ate with them at Hy’s, Il Giardino and Chardonnays. He went on weekend fishing trips to Sonora Lodge. He flew in private jets to boxing matches in Las Vegas, and stayed at their Scottsdale mansions. He was a guest at one of Pezim’s weddings on a luxury yacht.
But while the Masees may have associated with the rich and powerful, they were living way beyond their means.
As a banker, Nick pulled in around $85,000 a year. Their modest North Vancouver home was heavily mortgaged and they owed $70,000 on their credit cards, Lisa worked at the Yokoi Hair Salon on Cambie Street. Unlike their jet-setting contemporaries, Nick and Lisa’s getaway was a time-share in Maui.
Nick was banking that his new venture as a director of a sketchy VSE start-up called Turbodyne Technologies would propel him into the big leagues.
Eve Lazarus photo, 2015
The first hint that something was wrong was the unlocked door at the Masees’ house. The security system was off, their car was in the driveway, their 17-year-old cat was inside the house and so were their passports. Two plastic ties, similar to the ones that police use for handcuffs, were found just inside the front entrance.
The RCMP have no idea whether they are missing or dead. Corporal Gord Reid is keeping an open mind. “It’s a head scratcher,” he told me. “I’ve got missing people that I assume are murdered because they are not the kind of people who would be able to disappear. But the Masee’s could. He was a sophisticated guy. They both had passports from other countries, they had lived around the world, he understood international banking, and they had some money stashed aside.”
And, Nick knew his way around the Vancouver Stock Exchange. He was known to invest in his clients’ deals. At the time they disappeared Nick’s tennis partner, Nelson Skalbania was on trial for stealing $100,000 from a former business associate’s trust fund. Nick was scheduled to testify as a witness for the prosecution.
The night before they disappeared, Nick booked a table for four at their favourite haunt, Trader Vic’s. He called to say they would be delayed, but never turned up.
There was some evidence that Nick and Lisa were on the lam. They flew to the Cayman Islands a few months before they disappeared to set up a bank account with $50,000 worth of stock. Parallels were drawn with Fred Hofman, a fellow Dutchman who Nick had introduced to other members of the Dutch community. Hofman returned the favour by stealing and then running off with their money.
For now, the Masees remain North Vancouver RCMP’s biggest missing person case.
For more about unsolved murders and mysteries in B.C. join the FB public group page Cold Case Canada
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