Massachusetts mother of three Ana Walshe was supposed to have commuted back to Washington DC on New Year’s Day where she works for a high-end real estate company.
But police say that there is no evidence she ever took a ride-share to Boston’s Logan Airport as planned and she has not been seen since the early hours of 1 January.
When her husband and bosses reported her missing on 4 January, a police search was launched in and around the family’s property in Cohasset, Massachusetts, as well as their home in Washington’s Chevy Chase neighbourhood.
Her husband, convicted art fraudster Brian Walshe, was arrested on 8 January on charges for hindering the police investigation after prosecutors say that traces of blood and a knife were found in the basement of her family home.
It later emerged that Mr Walshe searched the internet for “how to dispose of a 115-pound woman’s body”, two law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation told CNN, and bought $450 of items that included cleaning supplies, mops and tape from a nearby Home Depot store on 2 January.
The case took an even darker turn after Mr Walshe’s arrest as investigators began searching a trash transfer station - and reportedly recovered blood, a hatchet and a hacksaw.
Here’s what we know about the case so far:
Who is Ana Walshe?
Ana Walshe, 39, is a mother of three who is married to Brian Walshe. She has a home in Cohasset, Massachusetts, but works in real estate in Washington DC during the week.
Ms Walshe was born in Belgrade, Serbia, and was working at the Wheatleigh Hotel in Lenox when she met Mr Walshe in 2008. After their 2015 marriage, they had three sons between two and six years old.
The couple’s three young boys were placed in the care of the Department of Children and Families following Mr Walshe’s arrest.
Search gets underway in Massachusetts
Police in Cohasset first announced that Ana Walshe was missing in a statement on Thursday 5 January and asked for the public’s help in finding her.
Authorities say that she was last seen at her home shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day, and describe her as being 5 feet 2 inches tall, 115 pounds, with brown hair, brown eyes and an olive complexion. They state that she speaks with an eastern European accent.
Investigators say that she had been due to take a ride-share car from her home to Boston’s Logan Airport to take a flight to Washington DC, where she works in real estate. Her husband and her employer, Tishman Speyer, both reported her missing on Wednesday.
Her husband was said to be cooperating with law enforcement on Friday 6 January.
Police search woodland near the family home
The search for Ana Walshe continued in wooded areas near the family’s home over the weekend.
Officials say that 20 troopers from a specialised search and rescue were joined by three police K9 teams and a police helicopter in the search. State police divers also searched a small stream and drained the home’s swimming pool.
Massachusetts State Police and Cohasset police said on Saturday 8 January that their ground search “will not resume unless police develop new information that so warrants it.”
But officials say that they were still involved in “various investigative actions” to find Ana Walshe.
Husband arrested for allegedly hindering the investigation
On Sunday 9, Cohasset police announced that Ana Walshe’s husband, Brian Walshe, had been arrested for allegedly hindering the investigation.
According to the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office, Massachusetts State Police and Cohasset police investigating Ana Walshe’s disappearance developed probable cause to believe that her husband “had committed the crime of misleading police investigators.”
Prosecutors tell judge that blood and knife found in basement of family home
Brian Walshe, 46, appeared in Quincy District Court on Monday following his arrest.
Prosecutors told the judge that police had found blood and a damaged bloody knife in the basement of the family home.
They also claim that Brian Walshe allegedly bought $450 of items that included cleaning supplies, mops and tape from a nearby Home Depot store on 2 January.
A criminal affidavit in the case states that Mr Walshe told police that he last saw his wife at their home early on January 1 when she took an Uber or Lyft to the airport.
He also told authorities that he went to a Whole Foods and CVS in Swampscott, Massachusetts, 40-miles away, on 1 January and took his child to get ice cream the following day.
The affidavit states that police did not find that any Uber or Lift ride had taken place on New Year’s Day, and she never took a flight to DC or arrived in the city by any other means of transport.
Prosecutors also say they reviewed video footage of Whole Foods and CVS and did not see Mr Walshe at either location when he said he was there.
“These various statements caused a delay in the investigation to the point that during the time frame when he didn’t report his wife and gave various statements, that allowed him time to either clean up evidence, dispose of evidence, and causing a delay,” prosecutor Lynn Beland said.
A not-guilty plea was entered for Mr Walshe and he was released on $500,000 bail. The next hearing in the case will take place on 9 February.
Trash transfer site searched
The same day of Mr Walshe’s arraignment, investigators were seen launching a search of a trash transfer site north of Boston.
The search allegedly yielded the discovery of blood, a hatchet, a hacksaw, a rug, and cleaning supplies in trash bags, according to WBZ-TV.
Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office released a statement about the search on Tuesday but would not confirm what had been found.
“Search activity conducted north of Boston yesterday resulted in a number of items being collected which will now be subject to processing and testing to determine if they are of evidentiary value to this investigation. No detail on those items will be disclosed at this time,” spokesperson David Traub said.
Brian Walshe’s history of art fraud
Brian Walshe, 46, pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in 2021 over allegations he took authentic Andy Warhol paintings from a friend in South Korea and used photographs and their documentation to sell fakes on eBay.
An FBI investigation was launched after a buyer agreed to purchase two paintings from Warhol’s “Shadows” series for $80,000 in 2016. After sending an assistant to collect the artwork, the paintings were found to have no authentication stamps and the canvas appeared to be new.
The owner of the paintings told agents that Brian Walshe had offered to sell the pictures for him, but after taking them with him he was then unable to contact the suspect.
Ana Walshe asked for mother’s help a week before disappearance
A week before her disappearance, Ms Walshe asked her mother to come visit her from Serbia. Milanka Ljubicic, 69, told Fox News Digital that “she just said, ‘Please, Mama. Come tomorrow’”.
“Which means that clearly, there must have been some problems,” she added. She told Fox that Ms Walshe asked on 25 December for her mother to come to the US the following day.
Ms Ljubicic suggested she come a bit later but her daughter said she didn’t have to.
“And now I can’t forgive myself for not just letting things fall where they may, and just go, and whatever happens to me, happens,” the mother said. She added that she missed two phone calls from Ms Walshe around midnight on New Year’s Eve. She’s also reported to have called her older sister and her maid of honour, both of whom also missed her calls.
“And now, I regret not getting the phone, because she’s disappeared,” Ms Ljubicic told Fox.
“That anything happened, I can’t believe it,” she added. “In total, I spent 16 months with my son-in-law and I never noticed anything bad about my son-in-law.”
“I cannot believe that he’d ever have done anything to her,” she told the outlet. “He said to the police that everything with Ana was fine.”
“I just have just one wish, and that is that my daughter is alive,” she added.