When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Family fears for backpacker son missing in Canada + Video
A father has spoken of his anguish after his son went missing in Canada.
Tom Billings, 22, from Boars Hill, was reported missing after he failed to return to his Vancouver accommodation following what police believe was a short trek in a nearby mountainous area.
The former Cokethorpe and d’Overbroeck’s College pupil was last seen on the morning of November 25, but it took some time before he was reported missing.
He was set to return to the UK on Saturday from New York City, but there has been no sign of him and there are now severe snow storms in the area.
Vancouver police believe he may have gone to the North Shore in Vancouver for a hike the day he went missing.
Tom had left his backpack at his accommodation.
His father, Martin Billings, a lawyer with Abingdon-based firm BrookStreet des Roches, flew out to Vancouver to help with the search. Last night, after returning to the UK following a public appeal for help, he told the Oxford Mail: “Tom is a young, tough and healthy guy.
“We think that he could be out there somewhere. Hopefully, he’s holed up in a warm place and someone has seen him who can pass information on to police.
“We just hope he can be found somewhere safe and can get back to his normal life.”
He added: “The things that have gone through my mind are in many ways too horrible to mention.
“I can’t deny that.”
Tom had never been to North America and was visiting after graduating from Durham University with a first-class degree in psychology in the summer. He had just completed his applications to study for a doctorate in disabilities such as autism and had an eight- to 10-week window before he was due to start.
It was his first visit to Canada, but he had previously travelled to Norway and Siberia.
Martin said his son was staying with friends he met on the internet, adding: “I would much rather he travelled with a friend, but he was a very independent guy and knew what he was doing.”
He said he and Tom had last chatted on Skype in San Francisco.
He said: “We talked for about half an hour about things he had been doing. Nothing really sticks in the mind – it was just general chit-chat.”
He added that the last few days of weather in Canada had been “ferocious” and snow had set in.
He told the Mail his son was a regular traveller.
“He was very keen on his work, but he also liked being outside, hiking and cycling,” he said.
“A couple of summers ago, he cycled from Durham to the Lake District.”
He flew out to New York on October 12 and worked his way across USA to California, before crossing the border on November 23 to November 24.
He was hitch-hiking and living with various friends he met on the internet during his trip. His father said he “liked meeting new people” and “met lots of friends” in that way.
The hunt for Tom is now intensifying.
Officials from the British Government are aware of the investigation.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We are aware of the case of a British national reported missing in British Columbia.
“We are liaising with local authorities and are providing consular assistance.”
Martin returned to Oxford yesterday to be with his “very distressed” wife Laura and their two daughters, Harriet, 20 and Anna, 17.
Randy Fincham, from Vancouver Police, said North Shore Rescue and the military conducted a “massive” sweep of Grouse Mountain and the Lynn Valley area after getting a tip from a woman who thought she saw Tom at Delany’s Coffee House on Lynn Valley Road.
Sgt Fincham said rescue crews are now looking at expanding their search. Anyone with information is asked to call Vancouver police at 604-717-3321.
Comments are closed on this article.