'A fruitless search:' Holly Clark's family preparing return to Calgary

After six weeks of intense searching for Holly Ellsworth-Clark with no new clues, the family of the missing 27-year-old is preparing to return home to Calgary.

Dave Clark, Holly's father, tells CBC News the family is spending this week and the next spreading awareness in Toronto. If nothing new surfaces, they'll pack Holly's possessions, which are still in her room, and fly out of Hamilton.

"We didn't have the energy to do anything with Holly's stuff at the end of her rental period … it's a natural end point for some things, it's a natural going back to Calgary point," he says.

"It's heartbreaking to take the cards and pictures off her fridge."

Holly's apartment, Dave says, is full of plants waiting to be watered, seeds waiting to be planted, handmade lyric books  and groceries she bought for an event on Jan. 11 — the night she disappeared.

Lead detective John Obrovac tells CBC News she hasn't been seen since.

"The trail has gone cold."

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Holly left her home on Jan. 11 near Sanford Avenue North and Cannon Street with the last confirmed sighting of the 6'1 and 200 pound missing woman being at roughly 5 p.m. that day, walking north on Wentworth Street toward Shaw Street.

Holly was wearing what looked like a rain poncho with black pants and black boots, while carrying a black garbage bag that appeared full.

Dave and the family have found more videos, including an unreleased clip from Feb. 3 of what they think is Holly passing her own poster.

After six weeks of searching, they can only account for a roughly 1.5 km stretch between her home and Burlington Street East. 

But most of the evidence they have is unconfirmed. 

'I hope she's hiding from us'

The circumstances around the case are unclear — police say Holly was "in crisis" when she left and Holly told her family two men chased her in the woods before she went missing.  

She left almost all her belongings behind including her cell phone, vehicle and clothing to shield her from the rain. Her bank account hasn't been touched either.

But investigators don't think foul play is involved.

While Dave loses sleep thinking of every possibility imaginable, he is trying to remain positive, even if the best case scenario is looking for someone who might not want to be found, even by her family.

"I hope she's hiding from us, from someone … that would be an optimistic outcome," Dave says.

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The family's efforts have spurred city-wide ground searches with hundreds of residents.

"I've never seen anything like it … they're doing a great job," Obrovac says.

But Dave knows they can't continue searching with this level of intensity. And with more than $20,000 spent, no new leads and few details on why Holly vanished to begin with, he has "no reason" to stay in Hamilton.

"We've always been expecting to find her next week … nobody wants to find their child dead but the longer something goes on, the more statistically likely that is … we don't want to waste people's money in a fruitless search," he says.

"We still have phones [in Calgary] … but if we need to be back in Hamilton, we'll come back."

Holly's brother and sister, Kate and Caleb, are raising awareness in Toronto. Her boss and close friend, Elle McFearsin, will spend Wednesday morning handing out posters at the Mulberry Street Coffee House in Hamilton.

Holly moved to Hamilton in October 2019 to pursue music after growing up in Calgary. She is a champion amateur wrestler and political science grad from the University of Calgary.

Anyone with information can call the police at 905-546-3816. 

The Clark family is also accepting tips at bringhollyhome2020@gmail.com.