Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Angels of Death: The Doctors

Family Doctor and Sexual Predator by Marilyn Bardsley

Josephakis Charalambous
Josephakis Charalambous

It's hard to imagine a family doctor who is more interested in the family's pretty teenaged girls rather than the health of his patients, but Josephakis Charalambous was just that. This was not an isolated incident, but a way of life for this most decadent of physicians.

A Canadian citizen, he had been born in 1952 of Greek parentage on the island of Cyprus, but had immigrated to Canada at the age of eight with his parents and siblings and settled in Vancouver, British Columbia. According to John Griffiths in Fatal Prescription, his father was a harsh man who was hated and disrespected by his family and who was eventually estranged from his wife and children.

<em>Fatal Prescription</em> by John Griffiths
Fatal Prescription by John Griffiths

Charalambous was indulged by his mother, who did everything she could to help him complete his medical education. Despite what appears to be a reasonably good relationship with his mother and sister, Charalambous had a very negative view of women. They were trash from his point of view: objects to be seduced and then discarded.

His desire to dominate and control women began early in his life and characterized his behavior in high school and university. Intimately tied into his desire to become a physician was his need to be able to attract desirable women with his professional status. However, his medical degree, once attained, was not the automatic magnet that he had hoped for. Women were not flocking to him and he often used prostitutes to satisfy his sexual requirements.

Things started to go seriously off track at age 33 when in 1985 he became obsessed witha 15-year-old girl, Shelley Joel, who was a patient of his, as were the other members of her family. Very much against the wishes of her parents, Charalambous pushed himself on the young woman and alienated her from her family.

Griffiths suggests that Charalambous married Shelley a couple of years later to avoid censure from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada. All the time, the brainwashed Shelley was physically and mentally abused by him. And if that was not bad enough, he cheated on her with prostitutes. But that was nothing compared to his next move.

Sian Simmonds
Sian Simmonds

He had set out to conquer two young female patients – Sian (pronounced Shawn) and Katie Simmonds. The girls complained to their father that the doctor had crossed the boundary of professionalism with his attentions. In 1991, their father went right to the College of Physicians and Surgeons with his concerns and the girls' formal complaints were lodged.

The subsequent trial transcripts stated: "It wasn't until November of 1992, that Charalambous was told that hearings into the girls' complaints would be held in March of 1993. On the morning of January 27, 1993, between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon, Sian Simmonds was killed in her basement suite in Surrey, B.C. She was shot twice and then beaten on the head numerous times with a blunt object. David Walter Schlender confessed to the killing in exchange for police protection for his family. He entered a plea of guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for twenty years. The theory of the Canadian prosecutors was that Charalambous hired Brian West to arrange the murder of Sian Simmonds in order to prevent her from testifying against him at the College hearing, and that West had then hired Schlender to carry out the murder.

"David Schlender was a drug user and owed money to Brian West. West told Schlender that Simmonds and her sister had to be killed to prevent them from testifying against a karate instructor friend. Charalambous was a karate instructor. West threatened Schlender and his family several times. Schlender agreed to kill Simmonds and her sister. West provided Schlender with a handgun, silencer, and bullets. West then narrowed his instructions to include only the blonde girl that drove the red jeep and lived at the Simmonds' house.

"On 27 January 1993, after drinking beer and smoking cocaine with a friend named Brian Cann, Schlender drove alone in Cann's car to Simmonds' house. He then returned home and smoked cocaine with his wife. Finally Schlender went back to Simmonds' house armed with a gun. Once at the house, he scratched the door of her jeep with a key. Schlender went to the front door of the house and spoke to the upstairs resident who directed Schlender to the basement. He spoke to Sian Simmonds, telling her that he had accidentally scratched her jeep. She went outside with Schlender to examine the jeep and then the two returned to the residence. Schlender gave Simmonds Cann's insurance documents and went into the bathroom. Schlender emerged from the bathroom with the gun. He approached Simmonds who was sitting at the table and held the gun to the back of her head. Simmonds saw the gun and panicked. Schlender shot her and then beat her to death with the gun."

Clearly, the testimony of Schlender was very damaging to the doctor, but his wife Shelley did quite a bit on her own. Charalambous had told her too many details about the murder that she could not have known otherwise. When she testified about these details that her husband had admitted to her, itcarried tremendous weight with the jury.

Charalambous was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole until 25 years of the sentence had been served.

On May 13, 1997 Josephakis Charalambous' appeal was dismissed by the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

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