COHASSET — As the final hours of 2022 ticked away, Ana Walshe rung in the new year surrounded by family.
In a text conversation with the 39-year-old mother of three, Abdulla Almutairi, a close friend and former colleague who has known Walshe for more than a decade, noticed nothing out of the ordinary in his longtime friend.
“We ... spoke right before midnight,” said Almutairi. “Rung in the new year.”
What happened in the hours that followed, however, has remained a troubling mystery.
As the search for Walshe continues, authorities appear to have few answers in a case that has drawn considerable media attention and left this typically quiet South Shore community shaken.
Speaking with reporters Friday, Cohasset Police Chief William Quigley said Walshe was last seen by a family member around 4 a.m. on Jan. 1, when she was expected to take a rideshare to Logan International Airport in Boston for a flight to Washington, D.C., where she worked.
But Walshe never made it to Logan, Quigley said, and investigators have been unable to confirm whether she took a rideshare from her home.
Walshe, who is married and is the mother of three children under the age of 6, has not been in contact with family, friends, or co-workers as she routinely was before Sunday, Quigley said. A police search of a Washington, D.C., residence owned by the Walshe family was unsuccessful.
“Right now it’s a missing person’s investigation,” Quigley said. “And the focus right now is on trying to locate her. Whether she just needed a little break, or a time out, we’re just looking for her.”
Authorities spent much of the day Friday searching wooded areas in Cohasset a short distance from the Walshe home.
After searching the grounds of the family’s home in the 500 block of Chief Justice Cushing Highway (Route 3A) and adjacent properties with K-9s, investigators launched a new search emanating from the parking lot of a nearby Stop & Shop store. The search included State Police and regional police units trained in search-and-rescue efforts, officials said.
In a bizarre twist that came as police were searching for evidence related to Walshe’s disappearance near her current home on Friday afternoon, a two-alarm fire broke out at 725 Jerusalem Road, a home she bought for $800,000 in 2020 and sold for $1.385 million in March 2022, according to officials and state records.
Though the timing of the blaze prompted speculation, a spokesman for the Cohasset Fire Department said Friday evening that the cause of the fire is under investigation but it did not appear to be suspicious.
Walshe, according to her LinkedIn page, works as a regional general manager for Tishman Speyer, a high-end property management and real estate brokerage.
In a brief statement, Tishman Speyer said the company is cooperating with the search.
“We are actively assisting the local authorities in their ongoing search for our beloved colleague, Ana, and are praying for her safe return,” the statement issued by a public relations firm said.
Almutairi, the friend and former colleague, said Walshe began traveling to Washington, D.C., for work within the past year, typically spending the workweek in the nation’s capital before returning on weekends to Cohasset.
He described her as a devoted mother who prioritized maximizing time with her husband and three children.
“You’re talking about somebody that worked 50 to 60 hours a week, got an Uber to [the] airport, and took a two-hour flight and then took a cab to Cohasset to spend a day and a half with her kids,” said Almutairi. “She’s amazing.”
A review of Walshe’s social media feeds paints the picture of a well-traveled woman who socializes frequently with friends, co-workers, and family, sometimes at high-end spots.
She appeared to post from Belgrade, Serbia, on Dec. 5, uploading a photo of a historical building to Instagram. Two days later, she posted a photo of a wing of a plane in midair said to have departed from Frankfurt International Airport in Germany, captioning the picture with the hashtags #surreal and #beauty.
More recently, she posted a photo of herself alongside the television personality Paul Wharton at a signing for Wharton’s new book in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, and at a Washington Capitals hockey game on Dec. 23.
“Officially a fan,” she wrote in a caption.
Walshe also has been involved in fund-raising for causes, according to her Facebook page, including a Mass.-based group called Community Workshops, Inc., which helps provide “resources and guidance to individuals facing barriers to employment,” according to her post.
She is the wife of Brian R. Walshe, who pleaded guilty in US District Court in Boston in 2021 to scamming a Los Angeles buyer out of $80,000 by selling them two fake Andy Warhol paintings, according to court documents. Brian Walshe is currently awaiting sentencing, records show.
According to court records filed in Brian Walshe’s federal case, Ana Walshe is a native of Serbia who married Walshe sometime between 2015 and 2016. In a letter sent to US District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock on behalf of her husband in June 2022, Ana Walshe wrote glowingly of her husband, calling him a wonderful stay-at-home father to their three children and citing a variety of purported good deeds.
“We are all looking forward to the new chapter of his life,” she wrote.
Authorities, however, have drawn no connection between the disappearance and her husband’s crime.
“They seem to be two very separate things,” said Quigley, adding that Brian Walshe has cooperated with police during their search.
Brian Walshe, Quigley said, “was sleeping when she left [Sunday morning] ... It’s not normal that she’s missing, so we automatically feel that she’s in danger by the mere fact that she’s missing. Other than that, there’s no evidence to support anything illegal.”
The FBI is assisting in the search for Walshe, but not as part of any ongoing criminal investigation, officials said.
“You know, life is challenging sometimes,” Quigley said during a press briefing Friday morning. “She has three small kids, the oldest being 6, the youngest being 2. The holidays, working out of state, sometimes life gets chaotic. So it may be a case where she just needed a break.
“If that’s the case, we’re just looking for her to call,” he added. “All it takes is a phone call to let us know that she’s OK.”
Paul Kearney, a member of the Cohasset School Committee, said Friday that the case was distressing.
“I’m praying for the town and for her and her family,” Kearney said. “I have three children as well, and I’m concerned about what the kids think. ... We are a pretty normal town [usually]. I’m sure the police department will figure this out.”
Emily Sweeney of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Jeremy Fox contributed to this report.
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