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Vancouver cold case files: The Christmas Day murder

“It is a dreadful commentary on a type of city as ours that such a crime could occur,” Vancouver police said of the murder in 1959.

Lila Anderson, 38, was murdered on December 25, 1959, her naked body dumped in a ravine at Knight Street and 45th Avenue.

Two little boys were out walking their dog the next day when they found her naked body with a black skirt wrapped around her head. She had been abducted from a bus stop, dragged into a car, beaten with a tire iron and her head was then smashed against a rock.

Lila’s body was found about a kilometre from the Pauls' house, the couple and their young daughter murdered 18 months earlier, and who I wrote about in V.I.A. earlier this year.

Lila came from small-town Rock Creek, B.C. and during the war served with the Royal Canadian Air Force as a sergeant cook. She moved to Vancouver after her discharge and first worked as an assistant night manager at the White Lunch and later as a cashier at the Safeway store at Broadway and Main Street.

In 1950 she bought a property at 30 East 15th Avenue and drew up blueprints for a boarding house. She hired a construction crew and supervised the work. When it was finished, she moved into the bottom suite and rented out the upstairs.

Lila made it clear that her private life was her own business, and she expected her neighbours and friends to respect that. What they did know was that she loved to garden; she loved Mikie, her eight-year-old cat, and she was happy to stay at home and listen to the radio or watch television. Relatives and friends painted a picture of a quiet woman who liked her own company and preferred to live alone. She laughed at funny things, they said, was friendly to small children, and had a nice smile.

Lila told her sister and a neighbour that she had made plans for Christmas dinner but she didn’t say who with. No one saw her after she left home on Christmas Day. An autopsy determined that Lila had eaten about an hour before she was murdered.

“It is a dreadful commentary on a type of city as ours that such a crime could occur,” Vancouver Police Chief George Archer told the media. “Someone must have seen her travelling about the city, or at her Christmas dinner. Yet not one single witness had come forward to help with the investigation.”

Lila had two children both of whom she adopted out. Ross Dewar was born in 1947 and believes he has an older half-sister in Ontario. Ross recently connected with a half-brother from his father’s side after adding his DNA to the Ancestry.com genealogy databank.

If you have any information about Lila Anderson’s murder, please contact Vancouver Police at 604-717-3321 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Eve Lazarus is a reporter and author, and she hosts and produces the Cold Case Canada true crime podcast. Her books include the B.C. bestsellers Murder by Milkshake; Blood, Sweat, and Fear; Cold Case Vancouver and Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City’s Hidden History. She blogs at Every Place has a Stor.y