The year-long search for Emma Fillipoff
Published Thursday, November 28, 2013 4:39PM EST Last Updated Thursday, November 28, 2013 7:49PM EST
A mother from Perth, just west of Ottawa, is trying to keep her daughter's story alive one year after the 26-year-old disappeared off the streets of Victoria, B.C. Shelley Fillipoff is now offering a $25,000 reward for any help finding Emma. The reward poster is plastered with pictures of the bubbly woman; a free spirit attracted to the west coast who disappeared without a trace a year ago today. Shelley Fillipoff is making the rounds at radio and television stations, hoping to renew interest in her daughter's case and spark that one call that could change the path of their lives. She even plays out that call in her mind.
“The phone rings,” says a very emotional Fillipoff, “and I actually do, I think, what would that be like if that were Emma’s voice? I’d probably die of happiness,”
The search for Emma has been all-consuming and emotionally draining. The one-time teacher hasn't been able to return to work since the hunt for her daughter began.
“My life is a disaster,” she says.
Emma, who loved walking barefoot outside, was seen by a young man on the streets of Victoria that cold November 28th evening holding her shoes and looking disheveled and confused. He called police. Two officers spoke with her for 45 minutes.
Constable Mike Russell speaks for the Victoria Police Department, “At the time, the officers spoke to her at length and there was no reason to apprehend her under the Mental Health Act so she was let go on her way.”
It was the last anyone saw of her.
“I am angry with police that they let her go,” says Shelley.
Shelley now believes Emma had been suffering from mental health issues for years and that perhaps she had a breakdown in Victoria. The young chef and photographer had called her mother days before she disappeared, very distraught. She asked her mother to bring her home, then called back and told her not to come. Finally, a very worried Shelley flew out on the 28th without her daughter’s knowledge and arrived at the women’s shelter where Emma, for some reason had been staying. She was told her daughter wasn't there, that they were worried about her and that they should call police. Just three hours earlier, unbeknownst to Shelley, Victoria police had already stopped the young woman on the street but she had not been reported missing at that point. Within days, a massive search was launched, including a police dive unit. Shelley stayed in Victoria for two months, tirelessly working the phones and computers. Then, reluctantly, came home without her daughter.
“I never went out there expecting to find her missing,” says Shelley, “I went out there to help her come home or help her stay in Victoria as long as she needed me.”
While the physical search has ended for Emma Fillipoff, the social media search is still underway. There are Facebook pages dedicated to the search for Emma. Shelley says she can't give up hope her daughter is still alive.
“I just don't know. I really and truly have no idea where she is and no idea what's wrong.”
Police in Victoria say they are still getting a few tips about Emma that they investigate. Shelley's hope is that the posters and the media attention will prompt that one call that will answer her question about where her daughter is.