UPDATE: HOLLY WAS FOUND DECEASED ON SEPTEMBER 10, 2020. A WORKER IN THE AREA SPOTTED HER BODY FLOATING ON THE HAMILTON HARBOUR NEAR PIER 11. OUR HEART GOES OUT TO HOLLY’S FRIENDS AND FAMILY DURING THIS UNIMAGINABLE TIME. THIS STORY WAS WRITTEN PRIOR TO HOLLY BEING FOUND AND HAS BEEN APPROVED BY FAMILY TO STAY UP.
Holly Ellsworth-Clark was 27 years old when she disappeared from Hamilton, ON on January 11, 2020. She was last seen walking out of her home in the Sanford and Cannon St area. Holly is originally from Calgary AB, but moved to Ontario in 2018 to pursue a career in music. The day before her disappearance, Holly called her parents crying and told them she wanted to come home… but that’s not all she said. Despite Holly’s family leaving no stone unturned, Holly remains missing.
“she started playing this music and it was just stunning. It was really amazingly good“Dave Ellsworth-Clark
Holly Ellsworth-Clark was born on November 24, 1992 in Clarenville, Newfoundland, but lived most of her life in Calgary, Alberta. She has two older siblings, Caleb and Kate, and her parents are Dave and Greta. Dave says that growing up, Holly was always the out-going one of a family made up of “shy people.” She was always making new friends and would be one to start up a conversation.
In 2012, Holly developed an interest in wrestling. It stemmed from her father, who played the sport competitively in his adult years, and then became her full-time coach. That same year, She won the PANAM junior championship, and was offered a scholarship to the University of Calgary, where she studied political science. During her university career she won three CIS championships.
Holly graduated university in 2016 and was still living at home until she figured out what she wanted to do. At one point, Dave gave Holly his electric guitar in case she wanted to try it. “I didn’t really expect very much,” he says. It wasn’t long before Holly started songwriting and singing. She created a band and even accepted gigs at local bars.
“I am a recovering academic. I did about 90% of a PhD in art so I’m a very experienced art critic. I can’t go to plays anymore, partly because it drives me nuts. Most of them are terrible,” he jokes. “The kids know this. They have always brought their stuff to me pretty reluctantly. With Holly’s music, I gave her my electric guitar to try to encourage her to play some more because I taught her some chords,” he says. “And then she started playing this music and it was just stunning. It was really amazingly good.”
Dave says when he went to watch Holly play at shows, even the most experienced bands were impressed by Holly’s talent. He also says guitarists and drummers would often reach out to Holly for collaborations.
“With Holly’s music, I gave her my electric guitar to try to encourage her to play some more because I taught her some chords,” he says. “And then she started playing this music and it was just stunning. It was really amazingly good” – Dave Clark
In the summer of 2017, Elle McFearsin hired Holly as a strata manager. “One of the things that stood out about Holly the most is that she could adapt to the situation she was in” Elle explains that whether Holly was talking to her or other co-workers, Holly’s tone or behaviour would change to adapt to their personalities.
Elle says that Holly also enjoyed debating about current events, political issues, social issues, or anything for that matter. But it would never turn into conflict, they would always be healthy debates. “It didn’t bother her to have a different opinion than you might,” she says.
“We have a very open work place and if you have a personal problem, I’ll happily sit and listen to it and give you whatever help you need, or advice, or encouragement. She would call quite often with boy problems, or friend problems,” she says.
In the fall of 2017, Holly went to Toronto to tour with her band and visit her sister Kate. At one of her shows, she met a guitarist named Randy, and they hit it off. They started dating, and a year later she moved to Toronto with him. That was the first time Holly moved away from home.
In Toronto, Holly and Randy lived in the basement suite of a house, where four others lived. Elle says Holly would often call her to talk about how much she didn’t like living there, the main reason being the roof was shorter than she was. Elle says Holly didn’t want to cause problems and was trying to really make it work. At this time, Holly and Randy created a band with one of Randy’s friend’s Andrew, who was a drummer. But, a year after their band was created, it was broken-up, because Randy and Holly broke up.
Holly caught feelings for Andrew, but he lived in Hamilton. While in the midst of moving out from her place with Randy, she decided to move to Hamilton to see if it would work between her and Andrew. However, the feelings were not mutual, and this devastated her.
Elle says that after a month of Holly living with Andrew, Holly started looking at new places and then found one she really liked. It was a room her landlord was subletting while he went to tour in Australia. He wasn’t leaving until December, but offered Holly his room in the meantime, while he slept on a couch in the basement. Holly moved in the beginning-mid November, and really enjoyed living there.
“We were able to essentially make up what her week before looked like literally hour by hour”Elle McFearsin
Holly was allowed to use her work phone and laptop for personal use; so after Holly went missing, Elle, her employer, was able to access Holly’s online activity. “We have literally everything that she could have had in a digital world including pings, numbers dialed, numbers out. You name it, we have it,” she says. “With that we were able to essentially make up what her week before looked like literally hour by hour.”
One thing that is not clear, however, is what Holly was up to on January 9th after 6:00 p.m., two nights before her disappearance. There was no cell phone or laptop activity from Holly until 10:00 a.m. the following day.
Holly came home on January 10th at about 8:00 a.m, but she didn’t come through the front door. She got in the house by smashing a living room window with a brick. One of her roommates, Mohammed, was sleeping on the couch and woke up when he heard the smash.
According to Dave and Elle, when they first spoke with Mohammed about what his interaction with Holly was like, they weren’t able to get a lot of information from him due to a language barrier. It wasn’t until a few months later when Mohammed improved his English that they were able to sit down with him again and ask questions.
Mohammed told them that him and Holly didn’t say a word to each other for a “long time” – and that they just stared at each other for a few minutes. She did not tell him about her night or why she broke through the window. And he didn’t ask.
Holly broke the awkward silence between her and Mohammed by asking him for help carrying some groceries up to her room – groceries she left by the door from a previous day. He helped her carry her groceries up, and then she told him he couldn’t sleep on the couch because it was a rule.
Since Holly was subletting her landlord’s room while he went on vacation to Australia, one of the agreements they made was that she would ensure people followed the rules. However, Dave says Holly wasn’t the type of person to be too strict on rules. She was more likely to be understanding and let things slide.
Mohammed tried telling Holly he was sleeping on the couch because he accidentally locked himself out of his room, but Holly was persistent that he had to follow the rules.
“The interaction with Mohammed just indicates that she wasn’t herself. She’s not that ungenerous, she wouldn’t be a stickler for rules in any normal circumstance” says Dave.
Strange phone call
Shortly after arriving home at around 8:00 a.m. Holly called her mother Greta, but her mother did not immediately pick up, so Holly left a voicemail. Greta did not notice the voicemail until two weeks later, but at that time she called Holly back within minutes.
Dave and Greta both spoke with Holly. Dave says it was a short – roughly 15 minute phone call. He says Holly sounded emotionally distraught, was crying, and told them that she was exhausted from running away from two men all night in the woods. They pressed her on it, but Holly would not elaborate. She also told them she did something “very bad” but wouldn’t talk about that either.
“I felt disturbed and I felt that she was mentally ill,” Dave says. “And, we hadn’t heard from the roommates that she had broken the window or anything like that.” In an attempt to make sense of Holly’s story without much information, he thought maybe Holly was running away from two men that she had met on a dating app – or something along those lines.
Elle and Dave asked Mohammed if Holly had talked to him about running away from two men all night, but Mohammed told them she did not. “We can’t just assume because she didn’t talk to the roommate [about running from two men] that it didn’t happen.” Dave explains that she didn’t even want to talk about it with her family, therefore it makes sense that she wouldn’t talk about it with her roommates either.
Nonetheless, they knew she was not well and were discussing a plan for her to fly over with her brother, who was supposed to go to Calgary for a work trip soon. “We still didn’t quite know how urgent the situation was,” Dave explained. “We were concerned enough that we wanted someone there right away. We wanted Kate there, we wanted Caleb there.”
When Dave and Greta hung up, they immediately called their daughter Kate, who lives in Toronto. They told her about their call with Holly and suggested Kate drive to Hamilton to check on her. Kate dropped everything and drove to Hamilton to see Holly.
When Kate arrived at around noon, Dave says she brought Holly lunch and comforted Holly for a couple of hours. He says Kate encouraged Holly to seek help for her mental health and that she should get some sleep. Dave says Kate was concerned about her mental health and was bothered that Holly wasn’t committing to seeking help. She wanted Holly to be checked on regularly but Holly wasn’t having any of it.
After a couple of hours, Kate had to go back to work but could tell Holly was still not doing well, so she called her parents and told them to ask Caleb, Holly’s brother, to visit Holly that same day too. Caleb was coming from Chicago that day and took the bus from Toronto to Hamilton. Caleb got there about five hours after Kate left, and texted Holly when he was in the city. However, Holly did not answer his texts or go pick him up like she normally would. “All the kids are close but I think Holly and Caleb are the closest.” says Dave.
Caleb walked to Holly’s place and when he got there, she wouldn’t let him in the room. He asked Holly’s roommate Emily and a girlfriend of another roommate’s, Tina, if they had a spare key to Holly’s room, but they said no. Caleb was frustrated and walked away, called his parents, and then went back to Holly’s. Dave and Greta called Holly and spoke with her briefly about letting Caleb in. “We knew she was not well,” he says.
Then, Caleb called 911 and requested a wellness check for his sister.
From what Caleb told Dave, police got there with a mental health expert. Police tried to ask Holly if they could come in but Holly says she was fine and that she wanted to be left alone. Police asked Caleb if he believed she was a danger to herself or others, and Caleb said no, so they told him there were no grounds for them to force the door open, and they left.
Slideshow of Holly and her family
Caleb stayed for a while longer and tried to see his sister, but she wanted to be left alone. So he ended up leaving. “She let Kate in five hours beforehand, five hours later she is in such a state that she won’t let Caleb in and she’s even closer to him.” Dave says it was as if Holly had “gone over a cliff.”
Holly’s family says after Caleb left, Emily asked Holly if she could come in using a spare key she found. Holly said no, but Emily convinced her to let her in for a minute to check on her. Then, Emily walked in and Tina followed. Holly was visibly upset and sitting on the floor in the middle of her apartment. Emily made Holly a cup of tea and they did some art therapy by painting. Emily did not get any information from Holly as to why she was upset; but still, Tina called Dave and told him everything was fine and that they would take care of Holly.
“Literally everybody within her family did everything right. And that’s what’s so frustrating. It wasn’t like.. She wasn’t cared for, or wanted, or loved, or looked after… they did everything right. And it still ended up like this,” says Elle.
Elle says that at around 3:00 a.m., Holly went on her computer to listen to meditation music to calm down. Then, at 6:00 a.m. Holly asked Emily if she would meditate with her, which she did.
For the rest of the day, Elle says Holly was in and out of her room. She says in the morning she was in her room doing youtube searches, listening to music and doing a bit of work. Then at lunch time she scaled the fence. “This was an interesting story that we heard. It was presented to us as a sign of insanity by [a roommate]” says Dave.
She climbed from the second floor down over the railing of the stairs, down over the fence below, to the ground – and then back up the same way. “She was doing a test run I think to see if she could get to where she wanted to go without being observed by cameras,” says Dave. Elle mentioned that there were cameras throughout the home, on the outside and at the entrances. Holly had previously mentioned the cameras to friends and wasn’t sure why they were there or what they were recording. “This scaling of the fence, would fit with her not wanting to be seen on footage,” says Elle.
At around noon, Holly had lunch with Tina and Avery and went back up to her room an hour later. She listened to Spotify from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00. p.m. Right around this time, the roommates saw Holly go downstairs to the furnace room to try to get in, but she couldn’t. Holly went back upstairs to her room to get a mic stand so she could break into the furnace room; but Tina went to lock the door to the basement so Holly couldn’t get down to the furnace room and potentially cause damage. Tina then texted Dave and told him their plan to take care of her wasn’t going to work and that he should fly down there to see Holly right away.
At 4:06 p.m., Dave then called Holly and asked Holly about the condition of her car, but she was very vague. Then, he told her he was flying to see her the next day. Nine minutes later, Holly walked out of the house, and that’s when she disappeared. The roommates called 911 two minutes after Holly walked out because they were afraid she would break into the video surveillance room. According to Elle, it was pouring rain out that day and Holly left without her belongings and not dressed for the weather. She was last seen wearing boots, sweatpants, and a black sweater.
“We were talking to her and she was sad a week before. We were asking her to come home because she was sad, and she still wanted to stay. And then she was gone. It was just instant” says Dave. “It was horrific… I was finishing up a job because I thought I would have time to finish it and then go out there and get her. I feel terrible that I didn’t just drop the job and go get her.”
MAP OF WHERE HOLLY WAS LAST SEEN ON JAN 11.
TIMELINE of Holly’s disappearance
January 9-10, 2020
Holly told her parents she had been running away from two men all night in the woods. She got home the morning of the 10th and broke through the third window beside the front door.
January 10, 2020 – 10:00 a.m.
At around 10:00 a.m., EST, Holly called her mother Greta, but Greta did not immediately pick up. Holly left a voicemail. Greta and Dave did not notice the voicemail but called Holly back within minutes.
January 10, 2020 – 12:00 p.m.
At around 12:00 p.m., Holly’s sister Kate drove to Hamilton from Toronto to see Holly.
January 10, 2020 – 5:00 p.m.
Caleb arrived in Hamilton to try to see Holly, but she did not come out of her room. Caleb called 911 so police could do a wellness check on Holly. Police did not deem Holly to be a danger to herself or others, and they left. During this time, Dave and Greta called Holly multiple times to try to convince her to let Caleb in.
January 10, 2020 – 8:00 p.m – 1:00 a.m.
After Caleb left, Holly’s roommates got in to Holly’s apartment using a spare key. They did art therapy, had tea, and talked until just after midnight.
January 11, 2020 – 6:00 a.m
Holly asked Emily to meditate with her, and she did.
January 11, 2020 – 12:00-4:06
Holly had lunch with her roommates at noon and then tried to scale the fence. She also tried to break into the furnace room downstairs where the video surveillance was. Dave called Holly at 4:06 p.m. to tell her he was going to come get her the next day.
January 11, 2020 – 4:15 p.m.
Holly walked out of her house in the pouring rain and disappeared. Caleb and Randy, Holly’s former ex-boyfriend, drove to Toronto to search for her. They reported her missing that evening.
When Police arrived to talk to Holly’s roommates, someone told police Holly was carrying a baseball bat when she left. Dave says that due to this, police told him they could not issue a press release because they were not sure if Holly was a danger to the public. However, it was later learned through house surveillance that Holly did not leave carrying a bat.
Holly’s brother Caleb went to Hamilton with Randy to look for Holly. Caleb called 911 and reported her missing that evening.
“They were very frustrated and angry, they didn’t get any significant help from the police that night.” Dave says at one point Randy and Caleb ran to the police for help while they were searching and asked if they could borrow flashlights, but they were laughed at.
“They provided no support at this point in the search” says Dave, adding they received no follow-up for days after Holly was reported missing.
Dave and Greta arrived in Hamilton late Sunday and began searching. Five days into Holly’s disappearance, both the police and Holly’s family had conducted separate searches, and then they had a meeting together.
“The head detective told us at that time that they had already concluded that there was no foul play involved, then they asked if she had ever done any prostitution, they asked if they had ever done meth. We were telling them the story of her running from two men, they didn’t take that very seriously but they were immediately entertaining the possibility that she probably had a lot of cash from her prostitution. And there was no evidence that she had ever had anything to do with that. None. The meeting was outrageous. It was really outrageous, it was bad. They came to the conclusion, five days in that there was no foul play and that has shifted the nature of their inquiry ever since.” “And as far as I was concerned, at that point there was just as much likelihood that she had been kidnapped than anything else.”
Both Dave and Elle say that despite the many challenges with detectives early on in the investigation, It did get significantly better, and they have an “excellent relationship with them now.” – Elle
Early in the investigation, around 750 people including members of the public went out with grids, with a lead, and conducted searches throughout Hamilton. “It was absolutely intense,” says Elle, adding that one of their goals was to put up posters throughout the city so Holly’s name and face could be recognized.
Around the 19th of January, Dave says they had a bunch of tips saying Holly was in a room at the Budget Inn, located on Sanford Avenue and King Street East. Some people told him they saw two men “drag and drug” Holly up to a room and that she was being exploited. Holly’s family went to the location right away and asked the manager if they could review video footage. The manager agreed and they reviewed footage on three separate occasions. “We saw a lot of suspicion going on,” says Dave.
He says at one point, Greta and two others were looking at footage when another manager came in and said he needed the room for a little bit, so they had to leave. When they came back, Dave says there was footage that had been deleted. They only noticed because Greta had been keeping track of all the time stamps she had gone through and had yet to go through, because she wanted to go through all of it.
Not long after, Dave called the police. When police arrived, Dave asked police to look through the rooms to see if Holly was there, but the police initially said they could not do that. After a lot of push back from Dave, police went room to room and asked if anyone had seen Holly, but they did not physically search each room.
“We can’t rule out that holly was there. Not on the basis of their search,” says Dave. “We believe it was probably somebody else, but we never could confirm that and we were dealing with people who were so dishonest we couldn’t trust the management of the hotel.”
Then, Dave says, he irritated the managers so much for six or seven hours, that eventually, the owners asked police to keep Holly’s family off their property.
Dave says after an hour or two of sitting around and not being able to contact the media at such late hours, they decided to do a facebook live about their experience. “That embarrassed the police in a serious way and that was the beginning of changing our relationship with them,” says Dave.
Elle says within 7 hours there were 20,000 views on that facebook video.
On July 31st, the City of Hamilton announced that they denied the renewal of the Budget Inn’s business licence, citing concerns of “public safety,” as well as a lack of “honesty and integrity” in its operation.
On January 27, three weeks after Holly disappeared, police received footage from a local business on Barton and Wentworth of Holly taking a garbage bag from a garbage bin and making a poncho out of it. Elle says they knew it was Holly because “she has a very, very distinct walk. And she’s tall. She’s 6’1″
Once they had a feeling it was her, they were able to get other footage from surrounding businesses. In between her walking around with a garbage bag poncho on, Holly picked up a full garbage bag and took it for a walk around the block. She was also seen carrying a fanny pack that likely had her bank cards, according to Dave.
The last piece of footage after that was on Wentworth towards Burlington. She was last seen in front of a metal recycling factory.
At that point around 35 police officers went to search the area with dogs and horses, and they even broke some ice in case she had fallen in the water accidentally. However, the searches did not turn up with any further information about Holly’s whereabouts.
Dave says they’ve been to multiple parks and places where people who are homeless or are substance abusers stay. “We found dozens more places we didn’t even know about when we went back this last month,” he says.
“And in addition to that, there are hundreds of abandoned buildings. Hundreds… Like we couldn’t even begin to search all of the places where she could have stayed if she had wanted to hide out. The only thing we can say with very much certainty is that she probably didn’t use any of the services for homeless people. She didn’t use any of the free meal services herself.” He says his family has checked with every food bank and no one has seen Holly. He says it’s possible somebody else has been getting her food but they are not sure.
Not always available
Holly’s family has been making any efforts to get Holly’s story in the media. “I would say the media was actually excellent. The negative side of that would be that some individuals who chose to do a YouTube video or blog post about the situation, don’t contact us to get the facts straight. This is frustrating because the information then given, is tainted and incorrect.”
Elle also talked about how hard it is to read comments from people on social media who make up their own theories about what could have happened to Holly. “People comment on things and they make assumptions and suggestions that are not true or are as Dave says, based on their own personal baggage,” she says.
“We actually go through every comment. Watching people make assumptions based on very minimal information is quite frustrating,” says Elle.
“When we needed media attention at a critical moment, one of the discoveries that I made is that there is no ordinary media in Canada at 1:00 in the morning. There are no news desks, there’s nobody to call, nobody will be listening to your story unless you have the personal number to somebody and they’ve already established a relationship “The social media is the media at that hour,” says Dave.
He explains they had to turn to Facebook live one early morning at around 2:00 a.m., to talk to the public about their experience witnessing what seemed to be human trafficking at one of the local hotels. They had originally gone there because of tips that Holly was being exploited.
Nearly 7 months have passed since Holly disappeared. Holly’s family continues to reach out to the media for coverage, and they continue to speak with local businesses, shelters, food banks, and other organizations that provide services Holly may be using if she is still out there.
To date, no more clues or tips have come up, but they are hopeful their hard work in organizing searches, interviews, putting posters up throughout Canada, and posting on social media will help someone who saw her or knows where she is, come forward.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Holly’s family had to alter their plans to go back to Hamilton and search. Luckily, the community of Hamilton has been very supportive and searches continue to be conducted.
“I guess I’m able to focus on the work that needs to be done, but I’m not that great. I find myself staring into space a lot sometimes. I have a bunch of tasks to do, and only got about a quarter of them done,” says Dave.
“It’s hard to do things when you don’t believe they’re going to come to any fruition. I’ve been pushing myself through things because I know on some rational level they might bear fruit.” “I don’t think I’m entirely well… We’re all trying to care for each other.”
Prior to Holly’s disappearance, Dave had only met Elle once at a Christmas party in 2019. However, since Holly’s disappearance, Elle has developed a close bond with their entire family and has been significantly involved in the search for Holly.
“I’m okay. I decided when this happened that this would be something that I followed through to the end, because if this were me and my family this is what I would hope somebody would do from me,” says Elle.
Despite the many challenges Holly’s family has faced, they did not expect to receive such overwhelming support from the city of Hamilton.
“We’ve talked a lot about the bad things that have happened in hamilton, but there’s a lot of good.” Says Elle. “The people of Hamilton have offered their homes to us, there’s a group that goes out every night looking for Holly, there’s another group that have started to make masks that say ‘Have you seen Holly?’ Like the people of Hamilton have really taken her in as their own, and that is something none of us really expected… I think that really needs to be mentioned.”
Dave adds many of the people who have been good and supportive are police officers. This is one of the many reasons why they have been able to get through this extremely difficult time.
“Also we get through with inappropriate humour,” Elle adds. “It’s a thing, we’re just stupid… We’re absolutely reckless when we are alone. You simply can’t live in the negative head space during a search. So, we attempt to laugh and bring a little lightheartedness as we go.”
Note from Editor: Holly’s story will be featured on our new podcast Reported Missing.
Podcast OUT NOW
Reported Missing investigates WHY Canadians go missing, HOW it affects society, and WHAT is being done to prevent and respond to the issue.
You will hear directly from families of missing persons, their search for answers, and any challenges along the way. Join us every Tuesday!
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Holly, you can contact: Hamilton Police: 905-546-4925 Family/Search Team: 403-909-2257 Guardians of Our Angels Missing Persons Canada Anonymous Tip Line: http://www.goamissingpersonscanada/tip-line Team Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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