Six years ago, a 26-year old woman disappeared off of the Victoria streets without a trace.
Emma Fillipoff has been described by family and friends as a caring and sensitive individual who loved speaking with local homeless people and being in nature. She worked in local cafes and at the local favorite, Red Fish Blue Fish restaurant.
Fillipoff lived a transient lifestyle, sometimes in the woods, sometimes on boats and most recently at the Sandy Merriman women’s shelter.
She struggled with mental health issues since she was 11 years old. As she grew up, these struggles worsened, and were witnessed by friends in compulsive rituals, including arranging objects into patterns. Closer to her disappearance, Fillipoff began to develop more and more apparent mental health problems, including a very restricted diet, and signs of fear, depression and paranoia that left her withdrawn.
Fillipoff began calling her mother, who was in Ontario, on Nov. 23. They had a cycle of calls where Fillipoff wanted to come home, and then decided to stay. Fillipoff became more anxious about her mother arriving in Victoria. On Nov. 28, Fillipoff spoke with her mother and asked her not to come that day. Her mother, Shelley Fillipoff, was concerned for changes she noticed in her daughter and flew over in the late evening on Nov. 28.
Shelter staff had told Emma that her mother was on the way, which caused her to storm out and not come in that night. Her mother arrived at 11 p.m., and shelter staff called in a missing persons report.
For years, the last sighting of Emma Fillipoff was by Victoria police in front of the Empress Hotel around 7:00 p.m. Emma was barefoot and clutching her shoes and spoke with officers for 45 minutes, before they decided she was not a threat to herself or anyone else.
This summer, a new witness came forward reporting he had seen her on the morning of Nov. 29 around 5:00 a.m. Simply identified as William, he saw her in distress on his way to work, and offered her a ride to the intersection of Craigflower and Admirals Roads, as she wanted to go visit her friend in Colwood.
Due to this new information, Shelley Fillipoff began a GoFundMe campaign to raise over $6,000 to get renowned Ontario dog handler Kim Cooper to fly over and help conduct a search for Fillipoff.
In an interview with Black Press Media, Shelly Fillipoff said the information and the dog search gave her bittersweet emotions.
“I am excited and nervous, but this is what I’ve wanted, more information,” Fillipoff said. “I’ve always been prepared to face the inevitable. I do think it may be inevitable that Emma is no longer alive after so long, but I have hope.”
The search is scheduled to begin in December.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Victoria Police Department, where the case is still being actively investigated.
“The file is still open and tips are being received with each viable tip being investigated,” said Detective Constable Dawndra Tolsma in a statement. “We encourage anybody with any information to contact us.”
VicPD can be reached by calling 911, or at their non-emergency line at 250-995-7654.
For more information, you can visit helpfindemmafillipoff.com
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