The Disappearance of Yoseph Birhanu-Baynesagn
Case File Overview
On the evening of Thursday, November 23rd, 2017, Yoseph Birhanu-Baynesagn left his home in Kitchener around 11:00PM and headed to Toronto. The 24-year-old had spent the evening at home with his sister, Yalem, while his parents worked their usual night shifts.
The next day, Yoseph called a relative from a payphone from Scotiabank Arena (or Union Station: both have been reported) in Toronto. He told them he was on his way to their home in North York for a visit, roughly a 20-minute drive or 30-minute subway ride away.
Yoseph has never been seen or heard from again.
At the time of his disappearance, Yoseph was approximately 5-foot-8 (173 cm) and 150 pounds (68 kg).
Case File Theories
Ran off to start a new life
Did Yoseph run off to start a new life?
This theory is often bandied about in missing persons cases, and sometimes it actually turns out to be true. But it is doubtful this is the explanation for what happened to Yoseph.
At first glance, though, it seems possible Yoseph just decided to walk away and start afresh somewhere new. For instance, when he left home he took his passports with him, as well as his wallet and some cash. However, Yoseph is just as likely to take these items with him on a trip to visit family. Also, if Yoseph used his passports, the police would have been notified.
Other evidence also suggests Yoseph is not off enjoying a new life somewhere. First, there has been zero activity on his bank accounts. How is he funding his new life? Second, it is extremely uncharacteristic of Yoseph to be out of touch with his family for this long. His family firmly believes if Yoseph was able to contact his loved ones he would have done so by now. Finally, it is extremely difficult to stay hidden, what with the prevalence of social media and the increased use of technology. Even if you do not want to be found, it is very likely you will be.
Did Yoseph leave home that night to commit suicide?
Yalem Metekia, Yoseph’s sister, told the media Yoseph “left a portable PlayStation with a password on a note for one of his sisters before he left in the middle of the night.” It would be interesting to know what exactly this note said; it might give some indication as to Yoseph’s state of mind.
Plus, it seems odd Yoseph left that night without saying anything to Yalem, or any other family member for that matter, about where he was going or when he might be back. By all accounts the family was close, and this lack of communication seems unusual. Why did he hide his plans from his family?
Yoseph not only left his much-needed medication at home, but also his winter coat. This seems to be not in line with the expected actions of someone going to visit family. A quick glance at a historical weather report shows the evening Yoseph disappeared was around -2 Celsius, not a temperature most people would venture into without a warm coat. Did he not bring his medication or coat along because he was not planning on being alive for long?
The most pressing question related to this theory, however, is how on earth did Yoseph manage to commit suicide and then hide his body so well that it has never been found?
Victim of foul play
Was Yoseph murdered on his way to visit family? Or during his visit?
Although there is no direct evidence of foul play in Yoseph’s disappearance, this theory is a distinct possibility. Detective Constable Joel Manherz with the Toronto Police Service has explained the police are pretty baffled by Yoseph’s disappearance, stating “He sort of seems to have vanished into thin air.”
Police investigated and at first could find no actual evidence Yoseph travelled to Toronto. He did not carry a cellphone and did not have access to a vehicle, so how did he get to Toronto? If he bought a bus or train ticket, or took an expensive cab or Uber ride, he must have paid cash. The investigators could find no record of a transaction in Yoseph’s name.
It was later confirmed Yoseph did indeed make it to Toronto when a private investigator hired by his family located the payphone in Scotiabank Arena that Yoseph used to contact his family member to set up the visit. A security camera focused on the payphone was identified, but unfortunately the recording was erased after 30 days and the valuable final images of Yoseph were lost.
Was Yoseph murdered by someone while travelling to his relative’s house? Perhaps a mugger or a murderous taxi or Uber driver killed Yoseph? Maybe. Do we even know for sure that Yoseph never made it to his destination? Could an altercation have taken place between Yoseph and his relative? No doubt the police did what they could to confirm there was no evidence of foul play at the relative’s home, and since the family has voiced no such suspicions we are best to give the relative the benefit of the doubt.
What do you think happened to Yoseph?
Yoseph’s family describes him as a “quiet, low-key guy who loves computers and a good laugh.” They love and miss him and will not give up hope that one day he will be found.
Yalem Metekia, Yoseph’s older sister, is asking the public to help find her brother. She insists, “Someone has to know something. We just want new information to go off to look into whatever hints might be there that we may have missed.”
“Kitchener man ‘vanished into thin air’ in Toronto 1 year ago: Police” – CBC News article
“Search continues for Kitchener man missing since November” – TheRecord.com article
“Police still looking for Kitchener man who left home in November 2017” – Waterloo Chronicle article
“Kitchener, Ont. family still searching for missing Jewish man, one year on” – The Canadian Jewish News article
“Historical missing person investigation, Yoseph Birhanu-Baynesagn, 24” – Toronto Police Service news release