Former Olympic rower missing from Victoria

Harold Backer told his wife on Nov. 3 that he was going for a bike ride but failed to return home

VANCOUVER — At least three investigations are underway in the case of an investment dealer and former Canadian Olympic rower who has gone missing from Victoria.

Investia Financial Services Inc. has launched a probe into the activities of Harold Backer, who is also the subject of two missing-persons investigations — in his hometown and in Washington state.

The Victoria Police Department has said Backer, 52, told his wife on Nov. 3 that he was going for a bike ride but failed to return home.

“Harold’s family needs to know that he is safe,” the department said in a statement asking for the public’s help in finding Backer.

Police in Port Angeles, Wash., said last week that an officer who viewed video from a street security camera on Nov. 3 noted a man fitting Backer’s description was aboard a ferry from Victoria, a 90-minute trip away.

Pierre Picard, a spokesman for Investia in Quebec City, issued a statement saying Backer has been a representative for the company since June 2005 and it has never received complaints from clients.

“Although Investia has no reason to believe that there has been any wrongdoing on the part of the representative, the company takes this situation very seriously and is conducting a full investigation into Mr. Backer’s professional activities with Investia.”

The Canadian Securities Administrators lists Backer as a seller of mutual funds in British Columbia and Ontario, and its website says he agreed to be supervised. Investia said that is “in no way related to his mutual fund dealings with clients.

“Investia’s thoughts are with the family of Mr. Backer during this difficult time,” the company said.

Backer competed in rowing in the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games.

A report in the Victoria Times Colonist said Backer wrote a letter to his clients before he disappeared and apologized for mismanaging their money.

Terry Paul, who was Backer’s rowing teammate in the 1988 Games in South Korea and the ’92 Games in Barcelona, said he last saw Backer in Victoria at the end of October.

Paul said Backer may have written a letter to clients “out of the goodness of his heart” after realizing “he got in over his head” in the mutual funds business.

“I just think living with that had to be incredibly stressful for him. I just can’t imagine what he’s been going through for how long and what he’s going through now.

“He’s a friend, and I’m concerned I’ll never see him again,” said Paul, adding he has spoken with Backer’s wife on the phone a few times in the last couple of weeks.

“She’s obviously shaken up. A lot of people have reached out to her and she sounds like she’s in shock.”

Paul said he read bedtime stories to Backer’s three now-adult children, including his eldest daughter who recently graduated from Harvard, and that he’s concerned about how they are taking their father’s disappearance.

“I feel sick to my stomach when I think about what’s happening with an old friend.”

Richard Gilhooley, a spokesman for the B.C. Securities Commission, said he could not provide any information about Backer.

“As a regular protocol, we don’t confirm or deny investigations and we don’t confirm or deny whether we’ve received complaints from the public. Sometimes complainants want to be kept anonymous so we don’t want to do anything that might compromise that.”

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