Detective Chantal Ziegler of the Victoria police reviews missing person files on a daily basis.

Detective Chantal Ziegler of the Victoria police reviews missing person files on a daily basis.

Finding missing people a daily task for Vic PD

Every time someone goes missing in Victoria, the file lands on the desk of Detective Chantal Ziegler.

Every time someone goes missing in Victoria, the file lands on the desk of Detective Chantal Ziegler.

Last Thursday, she had two new cases to review. Someone usually goes missing every day.

Many of the files often deal with an elderly person suffering from Alzheimer’s or high-risk youth with a history of running away. Ziegler is tasked with doing a risk assessment on each person, finding out why they are missing and whether there’s any foul play.

The first 24 to 48 hours are crucial as police gather as much information as possible to get a better understanding of the risks to the missing person. Their name, description and circumstances are entered into a police database to alert other departments.

If someone is a chronic runaway, officers will look at where they were last found, who their associates are and their lifestyle. If someone has a medical condition, contact is made with the hospital. If the case involves a child, however, officers immediately go into search mode.

“For an adult, it all depends on the information we get. Sometimes they are a needle in a haystack, but sometimes people just lost sight of somebody and haven’t heard from them for a long time,” said Ziegler. “It’s very time consuming.”

Victoria police have 20 historical missing person cases. The oldest dates back to 1956 and the most recent is from 2012. Advancements in DNA have opened up a number of resources for police to move the investigations forward. Last year, detectives matched a missing Esquimalt person with someone who committed suicide.

Although the cases are hard to solve, Ziegler said they haven’t gone cold. Some of the city’s most high-profile cases such as Michael Dunahee and Emma Fillipoff are still getting tips from the public.

Last week, police received five tips on the Dunahee case — a four-year-old boy who went missing from a playground at the former Blanshard Elementary School on March 24, 1991. As the 25th anniversary of his disappearance draws near, Ziegler expects more tips will pour in.

Fillipoff was last seen on Nov. 28, 2012, walking barefoot on the cold street by the Empress hotel. The 27-year-old’s red Mazda 1993 van was found in the Chateau Victoria parking lot with almost all her belongings inside.

Her mother, Shelley, spent the next two months searching for Emma. Three years later, she isn’t any closer to finding her daughter and grapples with many unanswered questions on a regular basis.

“It’s completely debilitating. Finding her alive will be closure. Finding her not alive will not provide closure,” said Shelley, who recently flew from Ontario to Victoria to purchase a billboard for Emma along the highway leading to Swartz Bay.

“All I have is hope. She crosses my mind every single day. I walk around in a bit of a fog. I feel as if I have a lead blanket on top of me.”

Ziegler and her team take every tip seriously, even if it’s information that’s already been reported.

As for the chronic runaways, Ziegler said it’s important they don’t get dismissed by the media whenever they go missing — such as a 16-year-old “at risk” aboriginal girl who’s missing yet again.

“I heard the media is reluctant to forecast her as missing because she goes missing all the time. We have to understand that kids that go missing all the time, they are the ones at most risk,” said Ziegler. “There is a reason why she goes missing all the time. She feels misunderstood, there’s a lot of stuff going on in her life and she has no tools to cope with them. We need to look for her. We need people to care for these kids and we need to make sure they know the resources are available to them. We don’t give up on these people.”

 

 

 

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

Just Posted

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Staff and volunteers at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea were disappointed by the theft of an educational porpoise skull likely taken on Jan. 8. (Courtesy of Tina Kelly)
Well-loved porpoise skull stolen from Sidney aquarium

Skull had been used for youth and visitor education and outreach for years

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

An Oak Bay Police officer handed out five tickets for “fail to obey stop sign” and two tickets for using a cell phone while driving, all within two hours at King George Terrace on Jan. 11. (Oak Bay Police Twitter)
Man confronts unmasked group at Oak Bay Marina

Oak Bay police issue plenty of tickets in short King George Terrace visit

A 45-metre tall call tower is proposed for Westhills Stadium. (Black Press Media file photo)
New cell tower proposed for Westhills Stadium in Langford

Tower will increase capacity in congested network: staff report

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Christmas may be over, but many B.C. neighbourhoods are still shining bright with the glimmer of holiday decorations and lights into 2021. (Black Press Media files)
British Columbians keep Christmas lights on past holidays to combat ‘COVID-19 blues’

One-third of households have kept their holiday decorations on display in 2021: B.C. Hydro survey

Most Read