RIO DE JANEIRO - A mentally disturbed Canadian man who disappeared in 2012 has been found by Brazilian police in the Amazon after wandering on foot, with no passport, through terrain filled with predators.
Anton Pilipa, now 39, had last been seen at a crossroads in Vancouver in 2012 until Brazilian police found him shoeless and swearing on a busy road in Ji-Parana in the northwestern state of Rondonia on November 28 last year.
"He could not speak Portuguese, was undocumented and clearly showed signs of a mental illness," said Helenice Vidigal, the Brazilian policewoman who first investigated the mysterious foreigner and, as an English speaker, took on his case.
Vidigal wrote in a Facebook post Thursday that the man, who swore a lot and had been walking dangerously among the cars and trucks on the highway, gave indications that he was Canadian.
"The first thing I noticed about him was his looks: very blond, blue eyes, unprotected white skin, no shoes... Rondonia is a very hot place to go walking bare feet," she wrote.
While he refused to talk about his family, he mentioned wanting to see the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. So Vidigal began researching with Canadian sources.
However in mid-December the man ran away while being treated in regional hospitals - just days before Vidigal finally succeeded in tracking down his Canadian family.
"To my despair we found the family and I had no idea about Anton's whereabouts," Vidigal said.
Brazilian police searched frantically and on December 25 federal highway police got a tip that the Canadian had been spotted in the Amazon.
"Here is where we started to really fear for his safety, because up there big predators like jaguars, alligators, snakes among other deadly animals are real, we are talking about the Amazon Jungle," the police officer wrote.
He was finally picked up and reunited with his brother who took him back to Canada.
The brother, Stefan Pilipa, told Canada's CBC network he was "amazed that he's alive and had made it that far."
"I found myself being really frustrated all the time, always having that aching question: 'Where is he? What happened?'"
The family describes Anton as a longtime anti-poverty activist who suffered "a prolonged struggle with mental health illness." His disappearance for five years left them "devastated," the family said in an appeal for help to cover the financial costs on GoFundMe.