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Father of missing British tourist pleads for new tips
The father of a British tourist, now missing for two weeks and thought to be in the North Shore backcountry, made an emotional plea on Monday for new information in the case.
Martin Billings, who flew to Vancouver from Oxford on the weekend, told a Vancouver Police Department press conference the media coverage so far has led to a couple good tips about the whereabouts of his son Tom.
"The purpose of being here … is simply to say we think that Tom could be out there somewhere," said Martin, pausing to compose himself. "Hopefully, he's holed up somewhere in a warm place and someone has seen him who can pass some information on."
Tom, a 22-year-old — whose father describes him as a young, tough guy who is used to being on his own — was last seen on the morning of Nov. 25 in the 1400-block of East Broadway in Vancouver. He had been staying with people that he met on a couchsurfing website.
Based on information found on Tom's computer, it's believed he made his way by public transit to the North Shore for a day hike.
After putting the word out to the public on Dec. 3, the VPD received a tip from a hiker who thought they may have seen Tom at the top of Grouse Mountain. A second credible tip placed Tom at Delany's Coffee House on Lynn Valley Road.
Those leads prompted an exhaustive search of the North Shore mountains on Dec. 4. North Shore Rescue used both a helicopter and foot patrols to search areas from the Capilano Watershed to Lynn Headwaters. A RCAF helicopter with night vision capabilities joined the search after dark.
"We covered the Headwaters very aggressively, with the help of Metro [Vancouver] and the military," NSR team leader Tim Jones told The Outlook.
Vancouver police are now saying the man spotted on Grouse Mountain was most likely not the British tourist because he was described as wearing a large backpack and Tom had left his behind that day.
With still no sign of the missing man as of Tuesday morning, the VPD is relying on the public to provide them with further clues.
"No tip is too small at this point. We would like even the smallest tip to come forward," said VPD spokesperson Const. Brian Montague.
Tom is described as a Caucasian male, five-seven and 160 pounds with short blond hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a black jacket and military-style pants.
Martin said his son, who was on his first trip to North America, flew to New York on Oct. 12 and made his way across the country before heading North in late November. He only been in Canada a few days when he went missing.
Tom graduated from university in the U.K. this past summer and was making plans to do postgraduate research in December, said his father. He was scheduled to fly home to England from New York on Dec. 7.
"We just hope that he can be found somewhere safe and be brought back to his normal life," said Martin, who was planning on flying home on Monday to be with his "distressed" wife and two daughters.
Meanwhile, weather permitting, NSR planned to do an aerial sweep of the North Shore mountains on Tuesday. Jones said they will continue to look for Tom during the course of other rescue operations that will "invariably come up."
When asked on Tuesday about the conditions in the North Shore backcountry, Jones was not optimistic.
"They are absolutely terrible," said Jones. "It's the worst case scenario for survival."
Anyone with information about Tom's whereabouts is being asked to contact Vancouver police at 604-717-3321.