Emma Fillipoff grew up in Perth, Ontario, with three siblings. Her parents were divorced and Emma lived with her father. She was an artist as well as a photographer, a writer and a talented chef. Emma was described by her loved ones as a free-spirited, compassionate soul who marched to the beat of her own drum.
Emma loved the beauty of the west coast and previously lived in Campbell River, B.C. She studied Culinary Arts at North Island College and worked as a chef.
Although Emma loved living in British Columbia, she wasn’t a big fan of Campbell River. In the fall of 2011, she moved to Victoria and found work at Red Fish Blue Fish, a popular downtown restaurant.
During her time in Victoria, Emma lived a mostly transient lifestyle. She crashed with friends and spent nine months at Sandy Merriman House, a women’s homeless shelter.
Emma disliked cellphones and refused to own one, making it extremely difficult for her family to contact her. She kept in touch via email when she visited the library.
In November 2012, Emma made several frantic calls to her mother Shelley asking whether she could move home. Shelley agreed, only for Emma to change her mind several times.
On November 27, Emma made another distraught call to her mother asking her to fly to Victoria and help her move. Shelley immediately purchased a plane ticket and told Emma she would see her in 12 hours. Later that same day, Emma called Shelley for the last time and told her not to come stating, “not today.”
Shelley’s motherly intuition kicked in. Sensing her daughter was in trouble, she went ahead and flew to Victoria as planned. By the time she arrived at Sandy Merriman House at 11 pm on November 28, Emma was gone.
November 28: A Timeline
On November 28 at 8 am, Emma went to a 7–11 and purchased a prepaid credit card for $200. At 5:54 pm, she returned and purchased a prepaid cellphone.
Emma exhibited bizarre and erratic behaviour during both visits; she paced back and forth to the entrance and peered through the glass as though she was looking for someone. She appeared nervous and afraid.
At 6 pm, Emma went to Sandy Merriman House and learned from a staff member that her mother was en route to Victoria. Upset, she stormed out and never looked back.
Shelley later stated she never told anyone at Sandy Merriman about her intentions to fly to Victoria.
At 6:10, Emma got into a taxi and asked to be dropped off at Victoria International Airport. When she learned the fare would be $60, Emma said she couldn’t afford it and exited the taxi.
The driver noted Emma became paranoid when the dispatch radio went off and asked, “Why is there noise coming out of that?”
Shelley later told Nighttime Podcast she didn’t understand why Emma purchased a prepaid credit card since she already had a debit card. She also stated her daughter had between $2,000 to $3,000 in her bank account plus the $200 prepaid card and could have easily afforded the fare.
At 6:15 pm, Emma ran into an acquaintance named Dennis Quay. She was barefoot and holding her shoes. Dennis said Emma wasn’t her usual self and described her behaviour as “disoriented” and “paranoid.” After parting ways, Dennis went into a nearby restaurant, called the police and reported a woman in distress.
Officers spoke with a barefoot Emma in front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria at 7:17 pm. She was mostly non-verbal and responded to questions by nodding and shaking her head.
Emma refused to put her shoes on when asked. She claimed she was taking a walk and planned to visit a friend. Officers ultimately concluded Emma was not a risk to anyone or to herself and let her go.
She was last seen walking away from officers at 8 pm on November 28, three hours before her mother arrived at Sandy Merriman.
Emma was officially reported missing at midnight on November 29.
Later that day, officers found her red 1993 Mazda MPV parked at Chateau Victoria, a hotel 5 minutes away from the Fairmont Empress where she was last seen.
The van contained almost everything Emma owned including her passport, camera and laptop. Also in the car were several journals Emma wrote in and a pillow.
A man tried to use Emma’s prepaid credit card to purchase cigarettes at a gas station in Sooke, B.C. on December 5, 2012. He claimed he couldn’t remember where he found the card because he was an alcoholic and his memory was poor.
However, authorities claim the card was found near the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre in Colwood, B.C. The man passed a polygraph test and was ultimately ruled out as a suspect.
Emma’s prepaid cellphone has never been activated.
“Green shirt man”
In May 2014, a couple who owned a store in Vancouver’s Gastown claimed a strange, agitated man in a green t-shirt walked in with a crumpled piece of paper in his hand.
He showed the storeowners a missing flyer for Emma and stated, “It’s one of those missing persons posters, except she’s not missing, she’s my girlfriend and she ran away cause she hates her parents!”
The man, who is commonly referred to as “green shirt man” appeared to be in his late 30s. He walked with a limp and had tattoos on his forearms.
The storeowners called the police but officers didn’t show up until the next day. The man has never been identified.
Over the years, there have been several unconfirmed sightings of Emma all over B.C. Some claim she was living among the homeless in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and was seen tearing down her own flyers.
There were two sightings of Emma hiking in Nelson in 2014. In 2016, a woman matching Emma’s description was spotted in Kelowna.
In June 2018, a man called authorities and said he gave a ride to a distressed, barefooted, soaking wet woman who matched Emma’s description at 5 am on November 29 —nine hours after she disappeared.
He said he picked the woman up at 1264 Esquimalt Road, 3 miles from the Empress hotel. She asked him to take her to Colwood 6.5 miles away to visit a friend.
Since the man was late for work, he couldn’t drive the woman that far and instead, dropped her off 5 minutes later at the intersection of Craigflower and Admirals.
Six years later, he learned of Emma’s disappearance and realized it may have been her. A 2018 search of the area proved to be fruitless.
Assuming the woman was Emma, she may have been met with foul play while hitchhiking the rest of the way to Colwood. It’s also possible she made it to Colwood unharmed since her prepaid credit card was found in the city. Emma could have been kidnapped and murdered or forced into sex trafficking.
While living in Perth, Ontario, Emma briefly dated a man named Julien Huard. He became infatuated with her and called her home several times after she broke off the relationship, claiming she only wanted to be friends.
14 months after Emma moved to Victoria, Julien did too. He bumped into her a few times while there including on the morning she disappeared. He claimed he saw Emma from a bus window. He got off and asked her if she needed help. She shook her head and he walked away.
While Julien claims the run-ins were a coincidence, many have doubts. At the time of Emma’s disappearance, he was renting a room and used a bicycle for transportation; some believe he did not have the opportunity to harm Emma. Julien passed a polygraph test and was ultimately ruled out as a suspect.
“I don’t quite know what definition most people give to a crush but let’s say that it happened in an instant, I just knew I had to get to know her, I don’t get that feeling often. My feelings for her never changed but I was hoping I could get over that so we could be friends.” — Julien wrote to VICE on Facebook
Following Emma’s disappearance, employees at a hunting store in Vancouver claimed a woman matching her disappearance came in and asked how she could “disappear.” She said she had a stalker who had followed her from Ontario to Victoria to Vancouver. The woman did not provide any further details.
Off the grid
Emma was a private person and rarely shared her feelings outside of her journals. She lived a transient lifestyle and wasn’t one to settle down. Emma was upset when she learned her mother was on her way to Victoria. It’s possible she disappeared on purpose, with the intention to live off the grid.
Emma often wrote in her journal about her parents’ divorce and the effect it had on her. By all accounts, their separation took a toll on her mental health. Emma moved to B.C. shortly afterward and limited contact with her parents.
Several friends, former roommates and staff members at the Sandy Merriman women’s shelter claimed Emma had been acting strangely for two weeks prior to her disappearance. She was described as being depressed, suicidal, paranoid and fearful.
Some said Emma talked to furniture, barely ate and started giving away most of her personal belongings.
Many believed Emma was in the midst of mental health crisis and may have been suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia.
Nine years and counting
“She was an amazing child. Very loving and funny. She loved life, loved animals, loved poetry and music. And she loved dancing. Emma had room in her heart for everybody and everything.” — Shelley Fillipoff
This month marks the 9th anniversary of Emma Fillipoff’s disappearance. If you have any information, contact Victoria Police Department’s non-emergency line at 250–995–7654 or submit an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 800–222–8477. Shelley is offering a $25,000 reward for any information leading to her daughter. Emma’s family can be contacted here.