With no new leads after weeks of searching for her missing daughter, a distraught mother is steeling herself for a step she hoped she’d never have to take — returning home without her child.
Shelley Fillipoff, who lives in the Ottawa area, has been in Victoria for the past five weeks looking for daughter Emma, who hasn’t been seen since Nov. 28.
Emma, who turns 27 on Sunday, was last seen in downtown Victoria. Her wallet and passport were found in her vehicle.
She wasn’t known to use drugs or alcohol and Fillipoff emphatically denies suggestions her daughter may have been suicidal. A trained chef, Emma moved to Victoria from Ontario just over a year ago in search of a healthier lifestyle, and worked in at least two restaurants.
Her disappearance is out of character, say those who know her.
Fillipoff kept in touch with her mother through frequent phone calls, but just prior to her disappearance, the tone of the conversations changed, her mother said.
“She would say, ‘Mom, I need your help,’ and then call back and say, ‘No, let me do this myself,’ ” Fillipoff said. “She was always strong — and I respected that.”
After the last call, Fillipoff decided something was amiss. Fillipoff, who is an elementary school teacher in Ottawa, decided she had to come to Victoria.
When she arrived at Sandy Merriman House, the emergency women’s shelter where Emma was staying, she was told by staff she had missed her by five hours. It’s unclear why Emma, who previously lived on a houseboat with a friend, was staying at the shelter, since her mother says she had money in the bank and had been working until her job ended Oct. 31. A staff member at Sandy Merriman said they don’t ask women why they need to stay at the shelter.
In the five weeks since, Fillipoff and other volunteers have left no stone unturned in their quest to find Emma, blanketing the city with posters, driving around town and searching city parks.
“There’s been nothing, no solid leads, no sightings,” said Fillipoff, who has been assisted by a group of up to 50 volunteers at times. They include friends and people who know Emma, along with strangers who wanted to help a mother in need. Together, they have canvassed neighbourhoods, set up a Facebook page and spent hours searching.
Support has also come from home, with friends, colleagues and family holding fundraisers so Fillipoff can pay for her extended stay here.
Even her Grade 5 class raised $900, in part via bake sales, to help offset her expenses.
“Never underestimate the power of Rice Krispie squares,” she said. “In the last five weeks, I have seen true generosity — both in time and money — shown to me. For me, it has been a reaffirmation of the goodness in people.”
Despite fundraising and donations, the financial toll of her quest is mounting.
“I’ve maxed out my credit cards,” she said. “But that isn’t important. What’s important is that I find Emma.”
But after five weeks of fruitless searching, Fillipoff is preparing herself for going home empty-handed.
“I have three other kids that are worried about their mom,” Fillipoff said. “The principal of my school has been very supportive, but there is a limit to how long the situation can last.”
>>> A Facebook page has been set up to help find Emma Fillipoff: facebook.com/HelpFindEmmaFillipoff
© Copyright 2013