Dana Zelic was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on November 12, 1972, to Mihaijlo and Biljana Zelic. Her father was originally from Yugoslavia, and her mother is from Serbia. She has one brother, Bata Zelic.
Dana’s parents divorced when she was 11, and her mother held four jobs to support the children. Dana became angry when she could not go live with her father.
After high school, Dana traveled to various places, including New York and Switzerland. She was diagnosed with depression at age 21 and took medication for it. Dana spent a month at St. Joseph’s West 5th Hospital in 1999.
After her hospitalization, Dana enrolled in a vocational school’s tourism program. She had a boyfriend, and they lived together. However, they ended their relationship, and Dana returned home with Biljana. The breakup was hard on Dana; she wasn’t sleeping and lost weight. Regardless, Dana began looking for her own apartment.
A short while later, she vanished.
On August 30, 1999, Biljana stayed up late reading a book on the couch, and Dana was in her bedroom. The last time Biljana saw Dana, she was lying on her bed on top of the bed covers, still wearing her day clothes – a plaid shirt and jeans.
Biljana dozed off sometime after 3 a.m. When she awoke around 7:30 a.m., Dana was gone. She initially thought her daughter had gone to a friend’s house. However, Dana took no belongings, not even her identification or medication. She left no note behind, either.
Biljana called the Hamilton police to report her daughter missing.
Shortly after Dana’s disappearance, Biljana received several phone calls, but the caller always quickly hung up. Once, they left a message on her answering machine: “Hi, Mom, I’m OK.”
Biljana was unsure if it was Dana, although a friend said it sounded like her. But while the voice sounded familiar, it was not precisely Dana’s voice, Biljana said. The message was accidentally deleted, so the police could not verify the call.
In August 2000, Dana phoned a male friend who was unaware she was missing. She told him she was living in Mississauga, 30 miles away. For some weird reason, police have never released details of that phone call.
There were two sightings of Dana. The first one occurred on September 17, 1999. Dana was in a Hamilton Spectator photo, arm-in-arm with another woman, taken at the annual Take Back the Night rally held the previous night. She still wore the clothes she had on when Biljana last saw her.
The next sighting occurred in 2002. One of Dana’s friends thought they saw Dana drinking coffee at a Starbucks inside a Chapters store by the Limeridge Mall.
However, the Chapters in Hamilton – on Upper Wentworth – had closed in January of 2000. The only Chapters in the area at the time were located in Ancaster, on Golf Links Road. It’s possible the friend spotted Dana at this location. However, there is no available public information to substantiate these sightings. –Canada Unsolved
Bijana visited the store numerous times, hoping to catch her daughter there, but Dana never showed.
Dana remains missing today. She had numerous friends who lived in Canada and the U.S. she could have traveled to see. In 1999, people did not need a passport to cross the Canada-U.S. border.
Police received a tip that Dana might have been around the former Sandbar Tavern at 193 King Street East.
The Sandbar Tavern had a history of drugs and violence. Matthew Van Dongen of The Spectator writes, “Sex worker Jackie McLean was beaten to death with a piece of steel in the building in 2001. Glenn McAllister died in an upper-floor apartment two years later, the victim of repeated blows to the head with a two-by-four. In 2006, the building made history again as the first crack house seized under the new provincial Civil Remedies Act.”
The Sandbar was sold in 2014. Two businesses now reside in its building – Brothers Grimm Bistro and Gastro Market.
There have been no more sightings of Dana since 2000, nor have police or Crime Stoppers received any leads in the case. There is a good chance Dana left voluntarily and is still alive. She will turn 51 in November.
Hamilton has a population of nearly 600,000, so it’s large enough that Dana could forever remain hidden if she chooses. Mississauga is larger than Hamilton, so she could easily hide there.
Biljana still lives in the same apartment as she did in 1999. She pleaded to Dana through the Hamilton Spectator in 2020:
“If she is alive … give me a call … your mom and brother miss you terribly.”
Dana’s father died in February 2022 at age 78.
I believe Dana is alive today and chooses not to come forward. Part of me thinks she has been selfish for far too long, but the other part theorizes she had reasons to leave. However, Dana should have contacted her family and told them she did not want to return. Instead, she has put them through decades of emotional torture.
Because so much time has passed, she could have met with foul play at some point, however.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Hamilton police criminal investigation branch at 905-546-2919. You may remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or crimestoppershamilton.com.
“MISSING: Dana Zelic (1999) – Hamilton, ON.” Canada Unsolved. July 15, 2020. https://www.canadaunsolved.com/cases/missing-dana-zelic-1999-hamilton-on
O’Reilly, Nicole. “Hamilton cold case: What happened to Dana Zelic?.” The Hamilton Spectator. September 27, 2020. https://www.thespec.com/news/crime/hamilton-cold-case-what-happened-to-dana-zelic/article_c289c793-368e-5154-af29-ee7ee029134b.html
Van Dongen, Matthew. “‘People died in this place:’ New owner has hope for former Sandbar.” InsideHalton.com. November 7, 2014. https://www.insidehalton.com/news/people-died-in-this-place-new-owner-has-hope-for-former-sandbar/article_d4778663-8fbd-5169-b2cb-3ad74de3e86f.html?