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Jean Ann JAMES





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Jealousy
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 24, 1992
Date of arrest: December 16, 2008 (16 years later)
Date of birth: 1940
Victim profile: Gladys Wakabayashi, 41 (the daughter of a Taiwanese billionaire and her husband's lover)
Method of murder: Slit her throat with a boxcutter
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Status: Sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on November 3, 2011
Jean Ann James confession (9,3 Mb)

Elderly Richmond woman’s conviction for 1992 murder upheld by appeal court

By Keith Fraser -

January 11, 2013

The conviction of an elderly Richmond woman found guilty of murdering her friend more than 20 years ago has been upheld in B.C. Court of Appeal.

In November 2011, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Jean Ann James, 72, guilty in the 1992 first-degree murder of Gladys Wakabayashi, 41, the daughter of a Taiwanese billionaire.

The initial police investigation resulted in no charges, but in 2007, police launched an undercover operation against James.

Court heard her confess that she used a box cutter to slit the throat of Wakabayashi in the woman’s Shaughnessy home after discovering she was having an affair with James’s husband.

On appeal, James’s lawyers argued that the trial judge erred in admitting the opinions of police that a partial shoe print at the murder scene appeared to be a woman’s high-heeled shoe.

The defence also contended that B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce failed to give proper instructions to the jury about evidence of James’s bad character.

But in a ruling released Friday, a three-member appeal-court panel found that the trial judge’s charge to the jury sufficiently covered the bad-character statements James made to the undercover officers, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban.

The court found that the shoe-print evidence fell within lay-opinion evidence and was admissible to show a potential inconsistency in the confession.

It was an error for the trial judge not to correct the prosecution’s suggestion that the print may be James’s, but the mistake was harmless, said the court.

“The evidence of motive and opportunity, together with the detailed confession, formed an overwhelming foundation on which a conviction could be based,” B.C. Court of Appeal Chief Justice Lance Finch said in his reasons for judgment.

“I would affirm the verdict of guilty and dismiss the appeal.”

Finch’s ruling was agreed to by Justice Peter Lowry and Justice Daphne Smith.


Jean James appealing murder verdict; video released of confession to 'Mr. Big'

The Vancouver Sun and Province jointly applied to B.C. Supreme Court to obtain and broadcast James' video-taped confession and were granted permission

By Kim Bolan - Vancouver Sun

December 6, 2011

ETRO VANCOUVER -- A Richmond senior convicted last month of first-degree murder for the 1992 slaying of her husband's lover is appealing the jury's guilty verdict.

Jean Ann James, 72, admitted to undercover police posing as organized criminals that she slit the throat of Gladys Wakabayashi in June 1992 because the billionaire's daughter was sleeping with her husband, Derek James.

The confession to "Mr. Big" — the purported leader of the gang — came in November 2008, after almost a year-long operation in which the officers befriended James, earned her trust and got her involved in criminal acts for their fake counterfeit-goods ring.

Over 11 months, James worked her way up to meeting "Mr. Big" in a Montreal hotel room, where he talked to her about whether she was ready for a job in which she was going to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Vancouver Sun and Province jointly applied to B.C. Supreme Court to obtain and broadcast the video-taped confession and were granted permission by Justice Catherine Bruce as long as the images and voices of the undercover operators were altered to protect their identities.

James's appeal lawyer, Ravi Hira, said some of the prejudicial things James said during the 90-minute meeting in Montreal should not have been stressed during Bruce's charge to the jury.

"We are appealing on the grounds there was evidence that should not have been admitted for the jury and we are appealing based on the reliability of the alleged confession," Hira said.

The grounds in the appeal filed last week say: "That the learned trail judge erred in law by failing to exclude editable prejudicial evidence that was not probative of any issue led by the Crown in the various Mr. Big scenarios."

Hira also said the judge "erred in law by emphasizing in her charge to the jury the Crown's theory that no one else had a grudge against the deceased after disallowing defence counsel to cross-examine on that issue."

The final ground of appeal suggests Bruce also erred "by emphasizing in her charge to the jury various prejudicial comments made by the defendant and other bad character evidence relating to the defendant."

James was a suspect almost immediately after Wakabayashi's body was found in her palatial westside Vancouver home in the 6800-block of Selkirk on June 24, 1992. But there was no forensic evidence linking the retired flight attendant to the crime scene — Wakabayashi's master-bedroom suite on the upper floor of the house.

It wasn't until 2007 that the RCMP's provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit made another major effort to solve the case, developing a year-long "Mr. Big" operation where a number of officers posed as members of a crime ring and ingratiated themselves with James after a "chance" meeting at a spa.

Through a series of recorded meetings and events, it was clear James eagerly embraced her new criminal life, even offering to kill for the gang. She eventually confessed in chilling detail to her "crime boss" about how she cut Wakabayashi's legs with a box cutter as she probed for information about the affair, then slit her throat. The cold-blooded killer said she felt no regret.

The RCMP has used the "Mr. Big" technique in more than 350 criminal cases, with an amazing success rate.

Some critiques claim the scenarios are so elaborate and other-worldly that suspects make false confessions because they are caught up in the allure of potential profit, or are simply trying to impress people they think are high-level gangsters. And some targets have claimed they confessed because they were afraid of what their new associates might do to them if they didn't admit guilt.

"The undercover operators cultivate an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, which also creates a significant degree of psychological influence over the target," said Simon Fraser University PhD student Kouri Keenan, who co-authored a 2010 book called Mr. Big: Exposing Undercover Investigations in Canada. "The combination of the enticements or the inducements and the fear create the conditions for eliciting false confessions."

In an interview, Keenan said Mr. Big confessions are more reliable when "the confession was accompanied by narrative details that could only have been known by the perpetrator or someone who knew the perpetrator, notwithstanding the context within which the self-incriminating statement was made."

But, he said, if the RCMP don't include a number of safeguards during the operation, the chance of a false confession increases.

"As it stands right now, there is no sort of safeguard or no way within the criminal law to test the reliability of these confessions," Keenan said.

The RCMP techniques have evolved over the 20-year period studied by Keenan. Now operators posing as crime bosses stress that the gang has a code of reliability, honesty and loyalty — to warn suspects not to admit to things they haven't done.

"Those are the sort of fundamental themes that resonate throughout these investigations," he said.

Keenan said that if the investigations are long-term — the operators in the James case, for instance, built a relationship for almost a year — the confessions tend to be more reliable.

In one case where a confession was later proven to be false, the investigation lasted less than a month, he said.

University of the Fraser Valley criminologist Darryl Plecas said the Mr. Big technique is an invaluable tool for law enforcement when there is no other way to advance a case.

"I think it is a great practice. The acid test is when they do it, does it work? And as it turns out, it does," he said.

He said the safeguards adequately protect against false confessions by ensuring that a suspect provides details about a crime that no one but investigators would have known.

"It is not like somebody sitting down badgering somebody and them providing snippets of what happened," Plecas said. "I think that concern is unfounded."


Jury Convicts Jean James in 1992 Boxcutter Murder

November 4, 2011

Jean Ann James expressed no emotion Friday morning when a jury found her guilty in the first-degree murder of Gladys Wakabayashi.

At 72, she will likely spend the rest of her life in jail with an automatic sentence of 25 years to life.

Yet she didn’t break down and cry, or express anger, or regret. She looked straight ahead and then she walked away with a sheriff to her new life in prison.

On the other hand, Gladys Wakabayashi’s family did break down. Her sister-in-law Susanna, cried and smiled. She hugged prosecutor Kerr Clark outside court. A family friend said “justice at last.”

Wakabayashi’s throat was slit with boxcutters about 9:15 a.m. on June 24, 1992. For years, James kept her dark secret, even when police searched her house a week or so after the crime. But she was lured by an undercover operation where a number of officers posed as members of a crime ring that embraced the eager James in its activities. She eventually confessed to a skilled operative posing as the crime boss in chilling detail, saying she felt no regrets about killing her former friend.

James’ lawyers had suggested she fabricated the confession using details from newspaper articles at the time. But a jury saw it differently. They deliberated for less than eight hours before convicting her.


Court told 72-year-old woman confessed to 1992 slaying of husband's wealthy mistress

By Kim Bolan - Vancouver Sun

October 12, 2011

VANCOUVER - A 72-year-old Richmond woman confessed to slashing the throat of her husband's wealthy mistress two decades ago after police launched an undercover sting into the unsolved murder in 2007, B.C. Supreme Court heard Wednesday.

Jean Ann James is charged with first-degree murder in the Shaughnessy slaying of her former friend Gladys Wakabayashi, the daughter of a Taiwanese billionaire, on June 24, 1992.

The charge was finally laid three years ago, after undercover officers posed as members of a criminal organization that recruited James, Crown prosecutor Jennifer Horneland told jurors in her opening statement.

Police arranged a chance encounter between James and an undercover operator and the two women "became friends and bonded," Horneland explained.

Soon, the operator asked James for help doing "various tasks for the criminal organization such as delivering packages, moving vehicles and meeting with buyers of counterfeit products," the jury heard.

Eventually James was taken to Montreal for a meeting to discuss her potential role with the purported crime boss, and it was during this meeting that James laid out details of the Wakabayashi murder, Horneland said.

"She killed Gladys Wakabayashi because she had done a little digging and found that Gladys Wakabayashi had been having an affair with her husband. A few days after learning this, she told Gladys Wakabayashi that she had a gift for her and would like to bring it to her home," Horneland said.

She said that James carefully planned the murder and laid out those plans in the video-taped confession to undercover police in November 2008. The tape will be played later in the trial.

"You will hear from Jean James that she was sneaky about it and that she parked her car five blocks away from Gladys Wakabayashi's home, that she walked down the lanes rather than on the sidewalks to get to the residence. She put a necklace, which was the gift, around Mrs. Wakabayashi's neck and slit her throat with a boxcutter."

James also stabbed Wakabayashi's legs and claimed she would call her friend an ambulance if she gave "a truthful account of the affair," Horneland said.

"You will hear Jean James say that she had no intention of calling an ambulance and that she slashed Gladys Wakabayashi on her legs because she wanted to get information from her and particularly she wanted to know how long the affair had been going on," the prosecutor told jurors.

The videotape shows James describing how she wore gloves and destroyed evidence, disposing of the murder weapon in a metal dumpster on the other side of town, Horneland said.

James's lawyer Raj Basra urged jurors not to jump to conclusions and to examine all the evidence presented during the trial carefully. And, he said, the central issue in the case is the reliability of the video-taped confession.

"Be critical about what you hear and ultimately keep an open mind in this case," Basra said in his brief opening.

Horneland said the Crown will call 33 witnesses, including friends of James, who are expected to testify that she had learned of her husband Derek James's affair with Wakabayashi. And Wakabayashi's former husband, Shinji, and daughter, Elisa, who was just 12 at the time, are expected to be called this week.

One friend is expected to detail a lunch she had with James, in which the accused killer said "Derek was having an affair with a very, very wealthy oriental woman and that this woman Derek was having an affair with was supposed to be her friend," Horneland said.

Several police witnesses will be called, Justice Catherine Bruce heard, including officers from the original Vancouver Police investigation as well as the undercover sting 16 years later, and a blood-spatter expert.

James sat in the prisoner's box, emotionless, as Horneland spoke.

Wakabayashi, 41, was separated from her husband when she was killed. The court heard that she loved playing the piano and missed a lesson on the morning she was killed.

She shared her home at 6868 Selkirk St. with her young daughter, whom she failed to pick up from school that day, Horneland said.

Elisa Wakabayashi called her dad to come and get her instead. He discovered Wakabayashi fatally wounded in the dressing area between her bedroom and ensuite, Horneland said.

Wakabayashi was described in court as a soft-spoken woman. Jurors heard that in addition to her affair with Derek James, an air-traffic controller, she had a two-year relationship with a Chilliwack music teacher named Joseph Bayer.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.


'Sweetheart' charged in old murder case

A Richmond senior citizen described by neighbours as an "absolute sweetheart of a lady" has been charged with a murder that went unsolved for 16 years

By Richmond News -

December 17, 2008

A Richmond senior citizen described by neighbours as an "absolute sweetheart of a lady" has been charged with a murder that went unsolved for 16 years.

Jean Ann James, 69, was arrested Friday at her home on Bridge Street. She made a brief court appearance Monday and remains in custody.

She is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Gladys Wakabayashi in Vancouver.

The 41-year-old daughter of a Taiwanese billionaire was found stabbed to death on June 24, 1992 in her Shaughnessy home, which she shared with her 12-year-old daughter.

A land title search shows that James and her husband, Derek, an air traffic controller, own a home on Bridge Street. They have been the registered owners since 1987.

James' neighbours expressed shock and incredulity when told their neighbour had been charged with murder.

"My God, I would find that impossible to believe," one neighbour told the News. "I've known her for 10 years. She's an absolute sweetheart of a lady. She's honestly one of the best neighbours I've had."

Another neighbour said Jean and Derek James were animal lovers. Their home is festooned with Christmas displays, plants and bird feeders.

"She's a really neat lady," one neighbour said. " She's really socially aware. Very generous. From what I know of her, she's an outstanding citizen."

James' social awareness included opposing a residential development on No. 4 Road in 2003. James wrote a letter to the editor and had made petitions to city council opposing the development.

Wakabayashi's body was discovered by her estranged husband, Shinji Wakabayashi, according to the Province newspaper.

Reached by phone at their home in Vancouver, Wakabayashi's wife said her husband did not wish to comment. However, she confirmed that her husband and Gladys Wakabayashi had been living apart when Gladys Wakabayashi was killed.

Staff Sgt. Bruce Hulan of the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit said James had been interviewed during the initial investigation. "During that period there was insufficient evidence to lay a charge," Hulan said.

Hulan's unit received the cold case file two years ago, and all the old evidence was reviewed.

"We did some further testing of exhibits -- DNA testing that wasn't available back in 1992 when this offence occurred," Hulan said. "We have new evidence that led us to be able to recommend charges. What that evidence is I'm not at liberty to discuss."

According to press coverage at the time of the murder, Gladys Wakabayashi was allegedly having an affair with a married man whose wife learned about it days before the murder. James is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 18.


Jean Ann James


Jean Ann James bows her head as she leaves B.C. Supreme Court
 in Vancouver, October 12, 2011.
(Photo of Ric Ernst -


The victim

Gladys Wakabayashi, 41, the daughter of a Taiwanese billionaire.



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