Charges withdrawn against Ottawa-area woman whose daughter disappeared in 2012

Shelley Fillipoff has been cleared of a string of drug and weapons charges ahead of the solemn four-year anniversary of her daughter's Emma's disappearance.

Shelley Fillipoff's daughter Emma was last seen in Victoria 4 years ago

Shelley Fillipoff is seen here in a 2014 interview with the CBC's fifth estate about the disappearance of her daughter. (CBC's fifth estate)

Shelley Fillipoff says she's "elated" that a string of drug and weapons charges against her have been dropped and that she can now refocus entirely on finding her daughter who vanished nearly four years ago.

The charges against the Ottawa-area mother, who has been the public face of a campaign to find her daughter Emma, were withdrawn Wednesday afternoon in a Perth, Ont., courtroom, her lawyer Trevor Brown confirmed to CBC News.

When the criminal charges were initially laid in 2015, Fillipoff said she found herself targeted online.

Emma Fillipoff disappeared in November 2012. (CBC)

"It did take away a lot of my energy, obviously, so I had to keep refocusing," Fillipoff said Wednesday.

"But what was problematic was that so many people turned their focus to me. They stopped focusing on Emma. They even used her page to make comments about me, and I found that very distressing. Emma's page is intended for Emma and Emma only and I found it wrong that people would do that."

Emma was 26 when she disappeared from Victoria on Nov. 28, 2012.  CBC's the fifth estate covered the case in 2014.

Fillipoff said she has "no idea in the world" where her daughter could be, but she tries to remain hopeful that a new tip will help her be found alive.

"She could be anywhere," she said. "As we approach the fourth year anniversary I don't feel as confident that she is alive, to be honest. I'm finding it harder and harder to retain that hope." 

Charges withdrawn

Ontario Provincial Police said cocaine, marijuana, bundles of cash, a sawed-off shotgun, a double-barrel shotgun, ammunition and a switchblade were seized from her home in Lanark County, southwest of Ottawa, during raids in 2015.

Fillipoff was charged with laundering the proceeds of crime, possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, marijuana possession, unauthorized possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm, and unauthorized possession of a firearm.

The charges were laid after a months-long police investigation into her son, real-estate agent Matthew Fillipoff, whom the OPP allege was supplying cocaine to street-level traffickers in Lanark County.

Earlier this year, Fillipoff told The Night Time Podcast that her son had been using her home as a "stash house for cocaine" without her knowledge.

Fillipoff refused to discuss her comments on the podcast with CBC News, but she said she immediately thought of her daughter when the charges were withdrawn.

"I like to think that wherever Emma is, she made it happen," she said.

Last phone call

Shelley Fillipoff remembers the last time she spoke to her daughter — a phone call on the morning of her disappearance.

In the days leading up to that phone call, she said Emma had called "in a great deal of distress" to ask her to come from Ontario to B.C. help her move, then abruptly changed her mind, chalking up her earlier request to "a bad day."

My gut told me things were more serious than she was letting on because she wasn't really telling me what was wrong.- Shelley Fillipoff 

"Don't come, mom. Not today," she said Emma told her on the morning of Nov. 28, 2012.

Fillipoff said she was worried after finding out her daughter was staying at a women's shelter. She flew to Victoria to check in but never found her.

"My gut told me things were more serious than she was letting on because she wasn't really telling me what was wrong. You could tell she was just in distress. She was distraught," she said.

The young woman was last seen speaking to two police officers outside Victoria's Fairmont Empress Hotel on Nov. 28, 2012.

Earlier in the day, she'd purchased a pre-paid cell phone and a pre-paid credit card from a 7-Eleven store.

'Please come forward'

Emma Fillipoff has been "all over the place," studying photojournalism in Belleville, Ont., teaching English in China and studying to become a chef in Campbell River, B.C., before moving to Victoria to work as a chef, her mother said. 

Fillipoff said her daughter is "like a chameleon" with her changes in hairstyles — and said the campaign to find her includes many different photographs.

"She puts that long hair of hers up and she looks like one person. She lets it down, she looks like another person. She cuts her bangs she looks like another person. Her look changes radically in a lot of the photographs," she said.

"If someone does know something, please, please come forward. And let us know she's okay."

The campaign to find Emma Fillipoff includes a poster with many photos of the missing woman. (Submitted)

with files from CBC News