B.C. investment adviser missing for 528 days turns himself in to police

Harold Backer disappeared from his home in B.C. after he told his wife he was going for a bike ride on Nov. 3, 2015.

Harold Backer disappeared in 2015 after he was last seen getting off a ferry in Washington state

Vancouver Island investment adviser Harold Backer went missing in 2015. (Victoria Police Department )

A Vancouver Island investment adviser who seemingly vanished in 2015 has turned himself in to police.

Harold Backer went missing after he told his wife he was going for a bike ride on Nov. 3 of that year. 

His disappearance sparked a frantic search on Vancouver Island and in Washington state after surveillance footage showed a cyclist fitting Backer's description getting off the Coho ferry in Port Angeles, Wash.

Some believed he may have been injured or lost, but the search took on a different tone when investment clients — including several close friends and Backer's brother — received letters from the adviser explaining he had lost their investments.

Video footage of Harold Backer moments after the Coho ferry docked in Washington state on Nov. 3, 2015. (Port Angeles Police)

On Friday, more than 520 days after his disappearance, police in Victoria, B.C., said Backer had turned himself in and was being held in custody.

He's facing two counts of fraud over $5,000 with a court appearance scheduled for Tuesday.

Officers told CBC News it's not clear why Backer turned himself in and that officials are still investigating where he's been since November 2015.

In a written statement, the department said financial crime investigators started looking into the My Financial Backer Corporation and Backer himself shortly after the adviser vanished.

The RCMP and B.C. Securities Commission have also conducted investigations into Backer's conduct as an adviser.

Past investments 

Backer's former rowing coach, Tony Carr, told The Fifth Estate he'd invested nearly $800,000 with the adviser — money from his retirement fund as well as his wife's inheritance.

Carr found out Backer had disappeared shortly after the ferry sighting.

"Another rowing coach phoned me and said, 'Do you know Harold's missing?' And as soon as I heard that, I thought, 'so is my money,'" the coach told CBC's The Fifth Estate in a documentary that aired earlier this year.

Backer continued to coach rowing after he retired as a professional athlete. (Finding Harold Backer/Facebook)

CBC News reached out to the Carrs for comment on Backer's arrest, but they didn't make themselves available to media.

Luke Mills, who started a Facebook page to spread the word about Backer's disappearance in 2015, said he was "shocked" when he heard Backer turned himself in.

​"I was happy to hear he was OK, obviously, alive.... As a person with family, it was really hard for me — and a lot of other people — because we just didn't know about his physical safety or state of mind," he said.

Mills said he and Backer were acquaintances, but that they hadn't spoken for a few years before Backer's disappearance. He never invested any money with the adviser.

"But the fact that he's back and has obviously turned himself in ... the proof is in the pudding that he's come back to deal with any consequences he may have."

Backer, who was 53 when he went missing, was an Olympic rower before he went into finance — although he never made the podium in three trips to the Games.

He returned to Mill Bay, B.C., after retiring as a professional athlete. He lived there with his wife and children until he disappeared.

With files from CBC's The Fifth Estate and Megan Batchelor