Ani Ashekian, who lived in Canada, worked as a paralegal for her own practice, but in her downtime, she loved to travel. In fact, by the time she had turned 30 years old she had travelled to almost 30 different countries. Her family say that she loved to try new things and was very adventurous.
On Monday, 20th October 2008, 31-year-old Ani had just returned from a trip to Costa Rica with her boyfriend, Wendell. Two of her co-workers tell Ani about an upcoming trip to China they had planned, and being the spontaneous person she is, Ani decided to go with them.
Whilst Ani did travel a lot, her family have said that she had never gone on a trip at such short notice before. Her older sister said: “Ani normally does a lot of research, and plans her trips…but with this trip, she had nothing.”
On Saturday, 25th October 2008, Ani and her two friends arrive in Bejing.
At 12:30am, on Friday 31st October, Ani left her friends hotel room. She may have been jetlagged or wanted to go exploring. This wasn’t unusual for Ani, as she had travelled and explored alone plenty of times in the past.
Later that morning, Ani returned to her own hotel room. She had a bath, drank some coffee, and then packed up all of her belongings and checked out of the hotel.
Whilst Ani’s older sister said that Ani preferred to travel alone and not stick to any schedule and that her leaving was her wanting to travel solo for a bit – her friends didn’t expect her to leave without even saying goodbye to them, or leave them any sort of message. Her friends say that this was very strange and concerned them.
Sometime between the 31st of October and the 8th of November, Ani left Bejing for Xi’an by train. She sent her last email on the 5th of November. After this, there is no more activity on her Hotmail account.
On November 9th, Ani arrives in Hong Kong from Xi’an by plane.
On Monday 10th November, there are several witnesses who say they saw Ani at Chungking Mansions, a multi-story building that has many different shops, restaurants and hotels. Unfortunately, these sightings are not confirmed or verified by the police.
Chungking Mansions has a significant South Asian population, and whilst Ani and her family are of Armenian-Lebanese descent, Ani could have passed as South Asian.
At 12:05am on Tuesday 11th November, Ani is seen on CCTV at an ATM in Causeway Bay. She withdrew $2,800 (in Hong Kong Dollars) in two separate transactions. Her younger sister says that Ani seemed “calm” in the footage.
Her family did not want to share this footage, as they were the last images they had of Ani. But some people found it odd that her family wouldn’t want to share images of her.
The footage was leaked online a year later. You can see the footage for yourself below.
At 8:30am that morning, Ani sent her sister a text asking her to wish her niece a happy birthday from her. This was the last time any family member heard from Ani.
On Tuesday, 2nd December, a British student said that he spoke to someone who matched Ani’s description at Kingston St in Causeway Bay. The student said that the woman was lost, and looking for directions to an IKEA store. The student then walked the woman in the right direction so she knew where to go. This interaction has never been confirmed as Ani.
On Monday the 15th of December, Ani was supposed to catch a plane back to Toronto from India. She never caught that flight.
Immigration records have shown that Ani never left Hong Kong or made it into India, although some say she might have avoided immigration if she travelled by boat, there is again no indication that she would have done that.
The last unconfirmed sighting of Ani was around Christmas time when a witness met someone in Wanchai, who spoke with a Canadian accent and introduced herself as “Ani”. However, this sighting cannot be verified.
There has been very little coverage about Ani’s case, and to this day none of Ani’s belongings has ever been found. There have also been no leads in the case for years.
Many people theorise that Ani could have fallen victim to Human Trafficking, as Hong Kong is a common transit point for those who are being trafficked.
It is also worth noting that the Chungking Mansions Ani was reportedly, never confirmed, seen at, she likely would have been staying in a cheap hostel. It is often referred to as “Hong Kong’s Ghetto.” Whilst it has improved over the years, it is still thought to be the centre of a lot of illegal undertakings.
Other theories around what happened to Ani are that she went hiking by herself and got into an accident that has resulted in her death, or that she disappeared of her own free will to start a new life.
The idea that Ani left on her own free will is not supported by her actions at home though, as her boyfriend and she was planning to move to Argentina together.
As of 2022, no trace of Ani has ever been found. What happened to her?
Unsolved, Missing, Missing Person, Mystery, True Crime, China, Investigation