Friday 23 March 2018

Florence in shock after US socialite's mysterious murder

The Amanda Knox case fascinated the public
The Amanda Knox case fascinated the public

Andrea Vogt

Italian police are investigating the murder of an American socialite found strangled with bruises and scratches on her neck in her Florence flat in a case that has echoes of the notorious Amanda Knox saga.

Ashley Ann Olsen (35) was found lying naked by her boyfriend, who had become worried that he had not heard from her in several days following a row.

The news sent tremors through the tight-knit community of foreigners in Florence, as well as the Oltrarno area where she lived.

Friends expressed hope that the case would not turn into another headline-grabbing saga that surrounded the murder of Meredith Kercher, for which Ms Knox was convicted and then acquitted.

Ms Olsen's boyfriend, a 45-year-old Italian painter, said he became alarmed after being unable to reach her.

The two had fought, he said, but when she did not pick up his calls he contacted the landlord, who allowed him into Ms Olsen's locked flat, where he found her and then called police.

Police said she had bruises and scratches that suggested she tried to fight off her attacker, but noted no signs of a forced entry into the small apartment on Via Santa Monaca. Her pet beagle, Scout, was found outside.

Ms Olsen moved to Florence in 2012 to study art and be near her father, who also lives in Florence, where he teaches art at an American school. The wealthy American appeared to be living a glamorous, bohemian expat life, which she chronicled regularly on Facebook and Instagram posts, many of which featured her beloved beagle.

Police were questioning a large group of American friends about her last movements as well as her boyfriend.

One woman, a regular at Ms Olsen's local café, said she had recently confided there were problems in the relationship. "I felt like a mother figure to her," the woman said. "She had been in a previous marriage that ended badly, and still had her ex-husband's name tattooed on her wrist."

Ms Olsen also hinted that her social media postings had attracted unwanted attention. Nine weeks ago, she shared several pictures apparently taken of her without her consent and suggested she had a stalker.

Giacinto Profazio, the investigator in charge of the Florence Flying Squad, led the investigation into Meredith Kercher's murder in Perugia in 2007.

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