Two weeks after his son's disappearance, the father of a missing British tourist has made an emotional plea for help, asking anyone who may have seen Thomas Billings as he went for a North Shore hike to contact police.
"We think that Tom could be out there somewhere," Martin Billings said, choking up. "Hopefully he's holed up somewhere in a warm place and someone has seen him who can pass some information on."
The younger Mr. Billings was last seen in the 1400-block of East Broadway around 9:00 a.m. on Nov. 25. The 22-year-old had only been in Vancouver for a couple of days and was supposed to re-enter the U.S. at the end of November, before catching a flight back to England on Dec. 7.
He was believed to be headed to North Vancouver for a hike the day he was last seen. Vancouver Police sent out a missing person's notice last Tuesday, prompting two credible tips. The case however, remains unsolved, and the elder Mr. Billings asked for the public's help during a police news conference Monday.
"I'd just like to make a plea to anybody who sees this to think, 'Did you see Tom?' If you did see him, please get in touch. We just hope that he can be found somewhere safe and [get] back to his normal life," he said.
When asked what he thought had happened, Mr. Billings told reporters: "The things that have gone through my mind are, in many ways, too horrible to mention. I can't deny that. I think the most likely thing is that he got into trouble somewhere on a mountain. And, from there on, I don't know. What I hope is he got to a warm place, where, maybe he's broken a leg or something, but he's able to keep warm enough to still be out there so that people could find him, but not able to move easily back down to the city."
The younger Mr. Billings had never travelled to North America before landing in New York in October. He then headed west, stopping in cities such as Las Vegas and Seattle before arriving in Vancouver on Nov. 23.
Though he had never before visited Canada, he was an avid traveller and hiker, with stops in Norway, Siberia, Russia to his credit, among others.
The father and son last exchanged e-mails a couple of days before the disappearance. Mr. Billings said his son seemed lighthearted and cheerful. There was no indication anything was amiss.
Mr. Billings said Tom hadn't mentioned certain aspects of his travelling to his parents, such as his hitchhiking and sleeping on strangers' couches.
Police believe the young man was planning on returning to the Vancouver residence at which he'd been staying, since he left his backpack and a newly purchased computer behind.
Mr. Billings said he had had apprehensions about his son travelling alone, but Tom said he preferred to be on his own, so he could make his own schedule.
Mr. Billings said one of the sightings, the most credible, was at a coffee shop on Lynn Valley Road. A woman said she caught a glimpse of a person she thought was the young Brit.
The second sighting was on top of Grouse Mountain, though Mr. Billings said that sighting appeared less credible since the man in question was wearing a backpack.
Mr. Billings planned to return to Britain on Monday night, to be with his wife and two daughters. He said he wanted to come to Vancouver to speak with the people who had seen Tom, and to talk to the officers running the case. He said he's not sure what more he can do in Vancouver at the moment, and being home to help his family through this time is of great importance.