Eve Lazarus has become something of a one-woman clearing house for unsolved murders.
The North Vancouver author founded a Facebook page called Cold Case Canada, which has thousands of members, who come to share memories. She records a podcast on the subject. Now she’s just released her second book dedicated to murders and missing persons cases on the cusp of being forgotten by all but those closest to the victims.
Cold Case BC puts fresh air into more than a dozen cases that left investigators stumped.
But Lazarus offers a more humane touch than most in a true-crime-obsessed culture.
“I hear a lot of podcasts and they drive me mad. They go through a couple of newspaper articles and that’s it. It’s not very accurate, oftentimes. It’s not very well thought out,” she said. “It’s really important for me that people get a sense of who this victim was. It’s not just a murder. They’re not just a murder victim. They were a person.”
Each chapter of the book took about two months of research before it was ready to write, Lazarus said. Typically, she starts with contemporary newspaper clippings from the archives and then moves onto coroner’s inquest reports, death certificates and any other publicly accessible documents. Though it may be a bit of a cliché, Lazarus also finds herself in contact with retired police investigators who want to see unfinished business taken care of.
“They all seem to have that one case they couldn’t solve that they can’t let go,” she said.
Most important, though, is becoming almost embedded with the families of the victims, travelling to the towns where they live to truly understand the context and the people behind the headlines.
“It’s really, really important to me that I do work with the families and hear their voice,” she said.
For her book, Lazarus travelled to Invermere, in eastern British Columbia, where she found the small town still divided over the unsolved disappearance of teenager Brenda Byman, who was last seen with friends in 1961.
When the Vancouver Police Department released their first major update in the infamous 1953 “Babes in the Woods” case in 2021, Lazarus already had the inside scoop. Because of her reputation, a distant niece of the two murdered boys alerted her that investigators had finally identified the remains found in Stanley Park and had a working theory on who killed them.
Lazarus also dedicates a large portion of the book to missing and murdered Indigenous women along the Highway of Tears in Northern B.C.
It’s evident from accounts of family members and friends in the book that reliving the loss of a loved one is painful – particularly when it’s clear the police failed to do their utmost at the time. But Lazarus said there’s a common desire among those she’s featured in the book.
“It doesn’t go away in five years or 20 years or, in some cases in the book, 60 years. It’s still there. These people still want closure and I guess my hope out of all this is that it will shake out some tips that might help law enforcement,” she said.
Lazarus made a point of dedicating about a third of the book to murders and missing persons cases that were eventually solved, although not until years after the investigations began. It helps to illustrate the point that a decent tip and the hands of committed investigators can bring justice for the victims and closure for their families.
That was, in part, how Lazarus decided which of the province’s many unsolved murders and missing persons cases to feature in the book. Every case Lazarus writes about predates the arrival of DNA testing, meaning investigative techniques and technologies that didn’t exist when the case went cold could break things wide open again, if only someone would come forward.
“I think in these cases, a lot of them are still solvable and I’d really love to see them get some attention, to get out there, to get some tips and to see police maybe take another look,” she said.
Cold Case BC is published by Arsenal Pulp Press, available in paperback for $23 on the publisher's website.