‘Emma Fillipoff Is (still) Missing’

‘Emma Fillipoff Is (still) Missing’

New podcast sheds some light on five-year-old case of missing Victoria woman

Emma Fillipoff was 26, disoriented and shoeless when Victoria police encountered her outside the Empress Hotel on Nov. 28, 2012. They spoke with her, though her responses were mainly non-verbal, and deemed her fit to leave her there, in the cold and alone at 8 p.m.

“That was five years ago and no one has seen or heard from Emma since,” says her mother, Shelley Fillipoff.

In 2014, W5 aired an episode documenting Emma’s case. Jordan Bonaparte and his then-pregnant wife sat watching in their Halifax living room and he instantly felt a connection to the missing woman. “Emma just felt like someone I would have been friends with,” he says.

An avid podcaster, Bonaparte chose to feature her case on The Night Time Podcast, his successful audio exploration of “Canadian true crime, mysteries, and the weird.” What started out as one episode has now spun off into an entire series called Emma Fillipoff Is Missing, released in late October with new episodes in the works.

And the deeper Bonaparte dug, the more mystery he found.

“Every person I talked to, just led to so much new information that in some cases shocked me, and in some cases turned what I thought on its head,” he says.

On Nov. 28, Shelley flew to Victoria from her home outside Ottawa to bring her daughter back to Ontario. Emma had been on the West Coast for a year, and was struggling. She had called a few times that week saying she needed help to move home. Shelley landed at 11 p.m., missing Emma by just three hours, and ended up staying for 70 days to search for her, piecing together what she could.

Because Emma was an adult when she disappeared, it’s added a difficult element to an already perplexing case. Police warned Shelley that she may have gone missing voluntarily, that it can happen when people just want to disconnect from the world, and from their families. But that theory doesn’t hold up with the consistent reports of Emma’s declining mental health – from the police, friends and former roommates – that Shelley believes contributed to her vanishing.

“I think she had some sort of psychotic break, and I think she could literally be anywhere,” Shelley says, though she stopped trusting her instincts long ago. “My gut is a mess. My instincts aren’t what they were, they kind of all left when Emma did.”

RELATED: The search continues for missing woman in Victoria

Every day for five years, everywhere she goes, Shelley says people want to talk about Emma. And so does she, but the countless dead-end leads that come from people with good intentions has taken its toll on the mother of four. Diagnosed with PTSD and unable to return to her job as a school teacher, Shelley now lives a quiet life out in the country near Perth, Ont. working at her new profession: finding Emma.

“Shelley is just so desperate for answers and desperate for attention and awareness of Emma’s plight, and of her plight,” Bonaparte says. “When I’m doing anything related to Emma’s story, I feel like it’s completely different from other things that I do on my podcast. With this I feel like I’m actually helping.”

He’s not naive – he doesn’t expect to find out what happened, or where Emma is. Her case is so complicated, there’s so many people involved and everyone has their opinions about it, he says. But actively working on it has meant the world to Shelley.

“Jordan pours his whole heart into this, that’s the difference” she says, referring to other podcasts who have featured Emma’s story. “You can tell he feels a very strong connection to Emma.”

Now the father of a five-year-old son, that connection to Emma is so strong, she’s a part of the family in Bonaparte’s household and even his son has theories about where Emma could have gone: “maybe she went to the mall, dad, and it closed and she got locked inside.”

RELATED: Mother continues search for missing daughter

Next week, Shelley will fly to Victoria again, to host a vigil planned for 7:17 p.m. – the exact time police found first found Emma –in front of the Empress. It aligns with three other vigils across the country, one in Campbell River where Emma briefly lived, one in Perth and one in Halifax, hosted by Bonaparte. She’ll also meet with Victoria Police, hoping for some progress on the case, with new Police Chief Del Manak at the helm.

In a statement, VicPD said: “Our investigation into Emma’s disappearance is active and ongoing. We continue to receive tips, and we continue to follow up on them. We’ll keep searching for Emma until she is located.”

“I’m dreading it,” she says of coming back to the place that was so difficult to leave after 70 days and no answers. “Getting on that plane five years ago was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I felt like I was leaving Emma behind.

“We don’t have an innate ability to know what to do when a person goes missing,” Shelley says. But she’s learned, because she’s had to.

“If I don’t find her, who will?”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kennedy Nikel, applied marine biologist at Cascadia Seaweed, here seen in late September, shows off bull kelp (in her left hand) and rock weed. The company is spear-heading an annual seaweed festival scheduled for May 13-21, 2021, with Sidney council have signed off in principle. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Cascadia hopes to see Sidney host seaweed festival in May 2021

Council supports the idea in principle following a presentation by Cascadia Seaweed

Trevor Davis, base manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in Sidney, stands in front of the Hecate Sentinal, an oil skimming vessel based at Sidney’s Van Isle Marina. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Oil spill response base taking shape on Saanich Peninsula

Enhanced base with elements in North Saanich and Sidney to be fully operational in fall 2022

The O’Meara family – (left to right) Mari, Max, Adam and Rei – spent Saturday afternoon picking out the perfect tree. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Santa’s Forest tree sale in Saanich implements one-way perusing, curbside pick up

Christmas tree, wreath sales in Braefoot Park through Dec. 24

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read