Shortly before heading into work at her family’s real estate business Thursday morning, Zabia Afzal ate breakfast with her older brother in the Woodbridge home they share. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary as they chatted.
“I didn’t pick up anything from that conversation, absolutely nothing,” Zubair Afzal, Zabia’s older brother. “No hints, nothing whatsoever.”
Soon after, Afzal travelled five minutes to the office, where she spoke with co-workers. Then, apparently without telling anyone where she was headed, she left.
The 30-year-old PhD student and beloved community activist has been missing ever since, prompting a days-long search by York Regional and Toronto police and a horde of concerned friends and family members.
“She is somebody who has had a great impact on people’s lives, and at this moment her safety and health is very important. We are, her family and friends, concerned about her,” Zubair Afzal, one of Zabia’s five siblings, said Sunday in an interview.
Afzal’s last confirmed location was in area around Ashbridges Bay around 10:40 a.m. According to Zubair Afzal, she is believed to have travelled in an Uber from her office around 9:30 a.m.
When the family could not reach her throughout the day Thursday, they contacted York Regional Police, who helped pin her to the Ashbridges area by tracking her cell phone. The phone was found in the area alongside her other belongings, Zubair Afzal said.
In the four days since her disappearance, officers from Toronto and York region have been looking for Afzal, deploying both the marine unit and a helicopter in the search. York Regional Police said they have received tips, but have no firm clues as to where Afzal may be.
Friends, family, and volunteers have struck a vast search party, strategically targeting areas based on her last whereabouts as well as her community work.
On Sunday, volunteers clad in white t-shirts reading #FindZabia searched in the Scarborough Bluffs and Toronto Islands, talking to residents and plastering posters of Afzal’s face wherever there was space.
They also canvassed the Thorncliffe Park area, where Afzal did outreach work for the last seven years, according to her close friend Sadia Khan. Khan said Afzal cared deeply about the health and well-being of women and families in the area, which has a high immigrant population, and her work addressed issues including poverty, discrimination, and Islamophobia.
Khan said it was important that those in the community knew Afzal was missing, in case they had information that might be helpful in the search.
“We are really trying not to speculate, we are really hoping that she is safe, and that she needed to step away from some folks, and we are hoping that she comes back to us,” Khan said.
Afzal has shoulder-length, brown hair and was last seen wearing black pants, a black or navy hooded sweatshirt and a green floral shirt.
Drivers with dashcam or security footage of Woodbine Beach on Thursday between 10:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. are asked to share their footage with police. Anyone with information is asked to call York Regional Police at (905) 881-1221 ext. 7441 or 1 (866) 876-5423 ext. 7441.