After class Tuesday, Michelle Yu headed out from her suburban high school to meet a friend at a nearby subway stop before a Girl Guides meeting that evening.
From her BlackBerry, the 18-year-old messaged her friend to say she had arrived at York Mills station. But when the friend wrote back, Ms. Yu didn’t read the text.
About three hours later, the grade 12 student visited a TD Bank branch downtown, where she was photographed by a surveillance camera.
Then, she vanished.
Girl Guides is just one of many activities the Grade 12 student has on the go. She also plays several sports, serves on student council, organizes events and fundraisers at her school, works as a swimming instructor and has a large social circle. She is academically successful as well: she has been accepted into several university business schools.
Which makes her disappearance all the more perplexing.
On Friday, her family made a public appeal for her to come home or, if she had been kidnapped, for her abductor to bring her back. Standing outside her school, York Mills Collegiate Institute, they said they had no idea where she could have gone.
“She is a happy girl, strong. Something’s happened – that’s what we don’t know,” said her mother, Sharon Yu. “She is popular, she has so many friends.”
Since she vanished, Michelle Yu’s phone has been off, which is also unusual: she uses it so often, she even keeps a charger in her purse. Born and raised in Toronto, her parents say, she doesn’t know anyone in another city she may have gone to see.
There has also been no explanation as to why she turned up at the TD branch at 354 Bay Street near Queen, some 14 kilometres from her school.
Adding urgency to the situation is the fact that Ms. Yu needs to take medication for a heart condition.
Her father, Wei Yu, last saw his daughter when he dropped her off at school that morning. They chatted about sports – Ms. Yu plays on rugby and field hockey teams – and nothing seemed amiss.
Ms. Yu’s many friends have banded together to find her, handing out posters across the city and making t-shirts. About 30 of them appeared at the Friday press conference to support her family.
“She’s a leader. Everyone admires her,” said Vanessa Laxton, 17, a fellow grade 12 student. “She always tries to help other people.”
At school, for instance, Ms. Yu organized a night of music and entertainment to raise money to build a Snoezelen room, a special type of room for developmentally delayed children. She also volunteers with the Toronto Foundation for Student Success, a charitable organization affiliated with the school board.
“She’s really involved in both the school and the community,” said Ms. Yu’s sister, Nancy, 16. “We can’t believe this.”
Anyone who can help find her is urged to call Toronto police’s 33 division at 416-808-3300.