On Saturday, August 12, 1989, toward the end of Kimberly McAndrew’s quiet shift at the Quinpool Road Canadian Tire in Halifax, her supervisor told her she could leave early. It was Kimberly’s boyfriend’s birthday, so she wasted no time in punching out. At 4:20 p.m., the blond 19-year-old Dalhousie University student, wearing a navy cardigan over an Esprit T-shirt with navy pants, stepped out the store’s back door and began to cross the parking lot. She has been missing since that day.
“Kimberly McAndrew was a pure victim,” says Tom Martin. “She didn’t do anything to deserve this. She was just walking home.” Police refer to unsolved crimes, especially homicides, as “cold cases,” but Martin hates the term. “I think it’s insulting to the families. There’s nothing ‘cold’ about these cases. They just haven’t been solved yet.”
In 2004, Martin-today a private investigator-was assigned to the Halifax cold-case unit and flagged the McAndrew case as one worth re-examining. The original investigation never led to a conviction, and Kimberly’s body was never found. But Martin had a suspicion about who had committed the crime. He went to the case with fresh eyes-reviewing all the evidence and reinterviewing witnesses to find overlooked leads and make new connections. “With a ‘cold case,’ you have to reheat it,” says Martin.
Halifax is one of Canada’s most violent cities. Despite being the 13th largest metropolitan area, in 2011 it had the second highest homicide rate in the country and ranked fourth in 2012. According to a 2008 report by Dalhousie University criminologist Don Clairmont, the city has “a long history of boisterous, sometimes violent, behaviour associated with it being a major port, military centre and government base,” and it’s a known hub for gun- and gang-related homicide. The city’s number of unsolved major crimes, which include murders and disappearances that are presumed to be homicides, is unusually elevated: 75 as of January 2014, the oldest going back to 1955. (The York Regional Police in Ontario are responsible for a population double the size of Halifax and have around 45 unsolved murder cases dating back to 1956.) Worse, the dismal ratio of crime to charges laid means Halifax has one of the lowest homicide clearance rates in the country. The situation is precarious, and Martin is frustrated both by the police department’s lack of commitment to pursuing unsolved crimes and his own inability to give victims’ families a measure of closure.
Soon after Martin began studying the McAndrew case, he re-examined an old lead. Years earlier, Andrew Paul Johnson, a repeat sex offender on probation, had written an essay as part of his treatment program. The psychiatrist noticed that the essay described what sounded like the McAndrew abduction and contacted Halifax police. Johnson, who had a criminal history in Nova Scotia, was by then in British Columbia and had been charged with kidnapping and unlawful confinement. In 1997, Halifax officers, following up on the psychiatrist’s tip, had tried to connect Johnson to Kimberly but dropped the matter due to lack of evidence. By 2001, Johnson had been designated a dangerous offender and imprisoned in B.C.
Once Martin began looking at the case again in 2004, he was struck by two details about Johnson. At the time of Kimberly’s disappearance, Johnson often stayed with his girlfriend in an apartment facing the Canadian Tire parking lot. Secondly, he had been arrested in B.C. with a developmentally disabled 20-year-old woman in his car, and he had made multiple attempts to lure other young women by posing as a plainclothes police officer. In his vehicle, cops say they found a meat cleaver, lubricating gel, packing tape, handcuffs and a police badge.
Martin reinterviewed the family, trying to get an even better understanding of Kimberly. He learned that, having grown up in rural Cape Breton, she was uneasy in urban centres. She disliked going anywhere alone and was unlikely to allow strangers to approach her, let alone get in a car with one. Her family was adamant that she would have screamed and struggled if anyone tried to grab her. However, Martin believes she might have let her guard down with Johnson. “How did the bad guy get her?” he asks. “Her father was a police officer. If Johnson had approached Kim and showed his badge, it’s probably the only way that anyone could have got her into a car.”