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North Vancouver's Nick and Lisa Masee missing for 20 yrs

North Van couple's disappearance still a mystery two decades on
Police have a long rumour list and few facts surrounding the disappearance of Lisa and Nick Massee, pictured pre-1994. The North Vancouver residents would be 59 and 75 if alive today.

It has now been 20 years since one North Vancouver couple vanished like smoke in a breeze.

Socialites Nick and Lisa Masee were connected to some of Vancouver's wealthiest citizens and a few of Howe Street's disreputable denizens through Nick's work as a banker and stock promoter.

During his 37 years overseeing investments at the Bank of Montreal, Nick had dealings with scandalprone stock promoter Harry Moll as well as Fred Hofman, an investment promoter and church treasurer who fled Canada in 1991 after being accused of running a Ponzi scheme that netted him $10 million.

Nick had recently retired after 37 years at the Bank of Montreal and gone to work as a stock promoter and director for Turbodyne Technologies, a company specializing in low-emission diesel technology.

The company eventually got the attention of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, which leveled fines on Turbodyne based on a string of misleading press releases in the late 1990s.

On Aug. 10, 1994 the Masees were scheduled to discuss a California businessman's proposal to invest $10 million in Turbodyne over dinner at Trader Vic's the night before the couple went missing.

Nick called the restaurant that night to say they would be late, but neither the Masees nor the prospective investor ever materialized. However, there is a conflicting report from a waiter who had a vague recollection of spotting the couple that evening.

On Aug. 11, Lisa, a 39-year-old hairdresser, made calls to the couple's respective workplaces on Nick's cellphone to say they would be away for a few days. The calls were routed through a repeater on Bowen Island, suggesting she was on or near the North Shore.

When Lisa's sister visited the couple's Monteray Avenue home several days later she found the door unlocked, their passports and car left behind, and their elderly cat abandoned.

Thieves tried to break into the house three weeks later.

Discussing North Vancouver's missing persons files in 2012, RCMP Cpl. Sue Tupper called the Masee disappearance, "the biggest investigation that's been done."

But despite the investigation and regular media attention - including a segment on NBC's Unsolved Mysteries - the case has cooled over the past two decades, leaving police to sift through evidence and a wide range of rumours to find out if the couple absconded with a stash of spending money or if they were victims.

"There were all kinds of rumours," noted North Vancouver RCMP spokesman Cpl. Richard De Jong. "What it boils down to is either they both left on their own volition and had funds available to them to allow them to escape with false identities and live a life of Riley; or they met with foul play because of some kind of criminal activity," De Jong said. "At this point we don't have a lot of evidence to direct us either way."

When discussing the case in 2012, North Vancouver RCMP Serious Crimes Unit Cpl. Gord Reid talked about the challenges of following a case with no evidence, crime scene or bodies.

"It wasn't your typical missing in that, as far as I could tell, neither of the people seemed to live what we would call high-risk lifestyles or had serious mental health issues or had gone hiking in the North Shore mountains," Reid said.

There have been several prevalent rumours surrounding the case, including one connecting the couple's disappearance to a multimillion-dollar Las Vegas gambling debt, but none have borne fruit for investigators.

The couple is safe, according to private detective Ozzie Kaban, who was hired by Nick's son in 1994. "When people disappear, they either float up or they show up someplace. At this point we have no. .. indication he is fish bait," he told the North Shore News in 2007.

A few months before the couple disappeared, Nick opened a Cayman Islands bank account and deposited $100,000. The money wasn't accessed, but opening the account indicates Nick may have been planning to flee, according to Kaban.

There were also reports Nick attended a funeral in early August, telling an acquaintance he was in trouble and needed to get out of Vancouver.

Despite being hired by Nicholas' son, Kaban said the pair's relatives were less than fully co-operative with his investigation, raising his suspicions. "(I'm) hoping that one day he's going to knock on the door and say: 'Here I am. How do you like my sun tan?'" Kaban said.

Nick Masee would be 75 today. Lisa would be 59.