Canadian man who disappeared in 2012 is found in Brazil

Before and after: Anton Pilipa who suffers from schizophrenia, disappeared from his home in Toronto in 2012 (pictured left, before his trip and right, after he was found and taken to hospital)
  • Anton Pilipa disappeared from his Vancouver, Canada home in 2012
  • He was spotted 10,000 miles away walking barefoot in the Amazon jungle
  • The 39-year-old had no money or identification on him when he was found
  • Pilipa survived by scrounging in the trash for food and clothes, picking fruit, and relying in the kindness of strangers
  • Family said they had almost given up hope before they received the call before Christmas that Pilipa was in Brazil
  • Stefan said he was shocked by the condition of his brother, whose body and face had 'taken the toll' of such an incredible journey
  • Anton has now returned to Canada where he is living with Stefan, his sister-in-law and their children

A Canadian man who has been missing for five years has been found more than 6,500 miles away in the Amazon jungle.

Anton Pilipa trekked across two continents, walking mostly barefoot with just the clothes on his back, after he disappeared from his Vancouver home in 2012.

His family spent years desperately searching for the former humanitarian worker, who suffers from suspected schizophrenia, and had almost given up hope when they got a call out of the blue.

A Canadian-born Brazilian cop spotted Pilipa, who she initially mistook for a beggar, shuffling down a dirt track in bare feet, and dirty, unwashed Bermuda shorts and a vest. He had no passport, without without any form of identification.

Incredibly, with help of several international agencies and embassies, she was able to track down his family who flew down to be reunited with their lost loved one.

'I was stunned,' Anton's brother Stefan told the DailyMail.com.  'I told myself that he was dead. Because that was the only thing I could come up with that explained his absence.

'But in my heart of hearts, I didn't think he could be. '

'I was really shocked,' added Stefan, who said he'd spent years asking himself the same question, ''Where is he? What happened to him?'

'I feel amazed that he's alive and had made it that far.'

Anton, who has been placed back on his schizophrenia medication, traveled through at least ten countries from Canada, including the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil - all without a passport and with little more than the clothes in his back.

His brother said he had one bizarre mission; to get to the National Library of Buenos Aires in Argentina. 

Tragically, when he finally made it to the library, after walking thousands of miles, he was turned away because he didn't have any identification. So he turned around and began his trek into Brazil where he would eventually be found.  

He described how he survived by picking fruits and berries, scrounging for food and clothes in the trash, and relied on the generosity of strangers. 

But that's not to say times weren't tough. Anton started off with a small bag of belongings but was robbed of what little he did have on several occasions during his trek.

While walking 800km alone through the dangerous Amazon jungle, filled with poisonous spiders, snakes, caiman - which can grow up to 20ft long and jaguar - all his toenails dropped off.

Anton traveled through at least ten countries from Canada, including the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil

Anton traveled through at least ten countries from Canada, including the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil

Yet, while he met some 'bad people' on his incredible 10,000 mile journey, he said he had 'received more generosity, especially in recent times.' 

'I've never felt alone,' he said. 'It's been a lot of thinking for years, sleeping in the open. It's very simple to live, we do not need many things.' 

But after years on the road, Stefan said he was shocked by his brother's appearance.

'He looked really rough,' he said after flying out to Manaus last month to collect his brother. 'His health was starting to deteriorate. We got him just in time.'

'I know that I am very lucky to be alive,' Anton said. 'I am very happy to be able to return to my family.'

Anton, who was described as an individualist, was diagnosed with schizophrenia several years ago but his family say they struggled to find him the help he required in the two years before his disappearance.

Before his illness, he had worked all over Canada for humanitarian relief organizations.

In 2011, he finally began treatment for his mental illness but that same year, he was involved in an incident which resulted in him being charged with assault and weapons offences.

He fled the country in 2012 before he was due to appear in court.

Reunited at last: Stefan sees his lost brother Anton again for the first time in five years in Manaus, Brazil

Reunited at last: Stefan sees his lost brother Anton again for the first time in five years in Manaus, Brazil

And despite his incredible journey, he will still have to answer those charges. After he arrived back in Toronto on Monday he was arrested before being released on bail.

After he disappeared, Stefan said he and his family did everything in their power to try and find him. They contacted police, hospitals, jails and even checked the morgues - but there was no trace.

'When someone disappears you suddenly realize there isn't a lot you can do,' said Stefan. 'We hit a wall.'

The first they knew Anton was even alive was when Stefan got the call from the Brazilian police department shortly before Christmas.

Anton began suffering with mental issues in 2009 

Anton began suffering with mental issues in 2009 

Anton was first spotted at the end of November when he wandered onto a highway in the Brazilian state of Rondônia. 

He was taken to a hospital in Porto Velho where police reached out on Twitter, and to local embassies to try and discover his identity. 

Finally, officer Helenice Campos - the officer who'd found him wandering on the road, was able to get in touch with Anton's family.

'I was really shocked … I didn't want to get my hopes up,' Stefan said.

The family began raising money to get their brother home, but then tragedy struck; Anton fled the hospital.

Thankfully Brazilian police were able to track him down again as he was heading into the dangerous northern Brazilian state of Amazonas. 

'That is the area where we talk about huge predators like crocodiles and jungle cats,' Officer Helenice Campos, who said she quickly recognized that the tall, blonde and blue-eyed Pilipa could be a foreigner, told CBC.

'We truly were afraid he could be eaten by one of those animals.'

Now Anton has returned to Toronto where he is living with his brother, sister-in-law and their children. Their 65-year-old mother has also been reunited with her missing son.

Stefan says his brother is traumatized but is still doing 'remarkably well', all things considered. 

'It's a little bit overwhelming for him,' he told DailyMail.com. 'He's very delicate at the moment.'

'He hasn't been around people for a long while.'

He added that he is hopeful his brother will reintegrate back into society after so long on his own.

Despite his trepidation, Stefan does not try and prevent his brother from taking walks now he is in Toronto - although they are considerably shorter than what he's used to.

'He'd got rules,' Stefan said. 'He has to be back by a certain time.' 

But it may be some time before he knows the full story of his incredible journey.

'I haven't wanted to press him too much about it,' said Stefan.  

 

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By Mathias Dillion 02/08/2017 17:14:00