New clue emerges in disappearance of Emma Fillipoff

There is a new lead in the November 2012 disappearance of Emma Fillipoff, who was last seen near the Empress Hotel in Victoria.

Fillipoff, 27 when she disappeared, was last seen around 7 p.m. Nov 28, 2012, just hours after she had called her mother Shelley in Ottawa to ask her to fly out and bring her home. Her mother missed Emma by three hours.

“By all accounts from the people who knew her, it sounds like she had a psychotic break or schizophrenia,” said her mother from Ottawa. She had recently gone home a triip to the West Coast to search for her daughter.

Emma used to work at the Royal Coachman Pub in Campbell River and investigators once thought she may be heading there.

Investigators have explored more than 200 leads, turning up little information. Most evidence indicates Fillipoff was planning to return to Ottawa, but there was no proof until now that she ever left the Island.

Shelly Fillipoff told the Campbell River Courier-Islander that store owners Joel and Lori Sellen in Vancouver's Gastown witnessed a man in their store throwing out a “missing” poster.

“Upon closer inspection, the poster was of [missing Emma Fillipoff] and the reward of $25,000 posted for her safe recovery,” said Shelley. “The man said, ‘It’s one of those missing persons posters, except she’s not missing, she’s my girlfriend and she ran away because she hates her parents.’ ”

The store owners said they got a "very creepy vibe" from the man and called the police right away to report the incident. Security cameras were able to pick up his image.

Vancouver police are investigating and posters have gone out over social media asking people to be on the lookout for Fillipoff or the man around the downtown eastside.

Only about five missing-persons cases in as many decades have gone unsolved in the capital region, according to Det. Const. Paul Spencelayh of the Victoria police. Considering that most investigations end within hours, Fillipoff’s case becomes more troubling with every passing day.

Fillipoff was a trained chef, held several jobs, was not into drugs or alcohol, and is described as a loving, emotionally sensitive woman who was planning to go home to her family.

Victoria police reported 376 missing peeople across the capital region in 2012, significantly fewer than the 692 it handled in 2008.

A disappearance usually boils down to one of four theories: the person ran away; had an accident; committed suicide; or was killed, police say.

Most missing-person files last hours, maybe days. Rarely does a case last months without any substantial progress. That’s what makes Fillipoff’s case so troubling. None of the evidence has led investigators toward any of their traditional theories.

 “It causes a lot of frustration in that there’s a lot of starting points … but each time we do a follow up, we’re no further ahead,” Spencelayh said. “It’s rare that we get cases like that.”

She bought a prepaid cellphone, but never activated it. Even though she had money in her bank account, she was staying — as she did several times in the past year — at a women’s shelter.

Those who knew Fillipoff said she occasionally seemed confused in those final days, according to her mother, who spent two months searching Vancouver Island for her daughter before returning home Feb. 5.

There are indications Fillipoff was suffering from a mental breakdown and no one has ruled out suicide, but that usually leaves behind evidence. There is also the possibility that someone else took her, but until now, there was no evidence that she was with someone else.

There is a $25,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.

Emma is described as looking younger than her age, five foot five, 90 to 100 pounds, with blond hair possibly waist long. She often wears knitted hats. She has no prior drug use, no prior history of vanishing, no criminal record and not living on the street at the time of her disappearance. She loves the outdoors, wears dresses and has been seen wearing camouflage pants and carrying an orange purse. She is very drawn to public libraries and oves children and animals. She has a shy temperament and is a vegan.

If you have any information about her whereabouts, call 911 or the Victoria police non-emergency line at 250-995-7654.

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