12/25/2011 07:41 EST | Updated 12/29/2011 11:23 EST

Joey Basha, Missing Canadian Student, Dead: Hong Kong Police Cite Overdose


UPDATE: CBC News is reporting that an overdose is the "preliminary cause of death" of Joey Basha, according to a statement by Hong Kong police.

Police are still awaiting a toxicology report, according to The Canadian Press. Confirmation whether the criminal probe launched will continue is pending. Basha's family has questioned the way Hong Kong authorities have handled the case and the delay in checking the morgue.

Original story follows:

The hunt for a Canadian student, who went missing in Hong Kong last week, has come to a tragic end.

Police in the territory have identified the body of a man found "collapsed in a public toilet" as 25-year-old St. John's native Joey Basha.

Cindy Basha, Joey's sister, posted a message on her Facebook wall early Tuesday, saying that her "beautiful, talented, sweet brother" was found dead last Wednesday. "My brother was so loved and had such a significant impact on all of those who knew him. This was a such a tremendous loss for us all."

On Wednesday, Basha's mother. Phyllis, told The Canadian Press that Hong Kong police have launched a criminal investigation into his death.

Initially, police ruled out foul play, but during a VOCM radio interview in St. John's, Phyllis Basha claimed physical evidence from an autopsy report prompted a criminal probe.

Investigators, she added, have begun interviewing people who knew her son and collecting surveillance video from businesses near where Basha's body was found.


At 2 a.m. on December 21, Basha told his roommate he was going out for food. The 25-year-old native of St. John's, Newfoundland never returned.

"I first thought he was with his friends when he didn't come home the first night," said roommate Dino Lee.

Basha had arrived in China's Special Administrative Region in August 2008 to study international and public affairs, while plying his passion for freelance writing and, especially music -- as the lead singer of a band called Milkteeth.

As his sister, Cindy Basha, related, "He may have been in the city for a less than a decade, but he made many friends and had an impact on the city's music scene."

Basha's disappearance was reported to local police a couple of days later. His family in Canada were told the news the day before Christmas Eve. Not content to spend the holidays anxiously awaiting word from across the world his sister Jackie and her husband flew to Hong Kong to search for Joey.

"He didn't have his passport, and he didn't leave with packages or anything, and I think his single intention was go out and get food," said his mother, Phyllis Basha. "When Joey left, he didn't even close the door to the apartment, it was wide open which is not typical to Joey."

Little did they know Hong Kong police had already found him.

QMI Agency reported that while the search for Basha was on, Hong Kong police may have overlooked the fact that his body had already been found and delivered to the local morgue.

Hong Kong is hardly known for violence against foreigners.

"I lived in Hong Kong for two years, and not once did I fear for my safety," said U.S.-based journalist Chris Anderson of The Huffington Post. "Not walking around in 'bad' parts of town. Maybe the odd pickpocket fears, but nothing that would cause me to fear for my life.

Messages of condolence are piling up on the Facebook site, Find Joey Basha.

"He really was the kind of guy that left a last(ing) impression on you," wrote Justin Gaurav Murgai. "My heart goes out to all his family and friends."

"I never had a moment around you that wasn't fun or exciting and in any social situation you would light up the room," recalled Becky Fulford. "You are a dear friend and will be missed."

Justin Quinton added, "My heart goes out to your family bud. Joey, I'll always remember you with a smile on your face, and a light in your eyes."

When Joey went missing, anxious friends suggested it may have been a case of "meds gone wrong" with Basha wandering the streets of Hong Kong, not knowing where he is.

"His roommate said he'd been having sleepwalking issues lately," his mother recalled, "And that he had gone to see his doctor about it.

"Joey will goof off for several hours, but not days, gosh no," she added. "Actually we'd been talking and he wanted me to include a particular item in a package to send, but he hadn't returned that call about that package."