Windsor woman missing in China

By Dalson ChenDecember 19, 2008

Ani Ashekian decided to go on a trip to Asia. She had planned on travelling to China/India/Vietnam and Cambodia. She only had time to secure a visa to enter China and she decided she would get the other necessary visa's while she was abroad. Ani left for Beijing China on October 24, 2008. Accrding to her passport she entered Honk Kong on November 9th.
Photograph by: Handout

The loved ones of a former Windsor woman are worried about her wellbeing after they lost all contact with her while she was travelling in China.

According to family members, 30-year-old Ani Ashekian’s last communication with them was on Nov. 10, when she was in Hong Kong. There’s been no word from her since then -- a silence of more than five weeks.

“She normally calls,” said Rosie Kampstra, Ashekian’s older sister. “She normally calls or sends an e-mail or does something.”

Most troubling to Kampstra is that there hasn’t been any activity on Ashekian’s credit card since Nov. 10. Kampstra said the credit card is Ashekian’s only source of money when travelling.

“She always uses her credit card. Always,” Kampstra said. “Up until that date, she was using it every day or every other day.”

Foreign Affairs Canada has been made aware of the situation. Consular officials are speaking with Hong Kong authorities, who are investigating Ashekian’s disappearance as a missing person case.

Embassy called

“I’ve called the embassy, I’ve contacted the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong,” Kampstra said. “The Hong Kong police have officially started doing a search for her. I’m not sure the extent of it. I know that they were checking hospitals and morgues. So we’re waiting to hear back from them.”

Ashekian grew up locally, graduating from St. Joseph’s Catholic high school and the University of Windsor. She moved to Toronto and was working as a paralegal.

Kampstra said her younger sister is an experienced traveller. Ashekian had previously taken solo trips to South America, Europe, the Caribbean and Costa Rica. In October, Ashekian decided to take her first trip to the Far East.

She left for Beijing on Oct. 24 and was scheduled for a return flight from Delhi, India, on Dec. 15. She did not board the return flight.

Kampstra said that for the first two weeks of Ashekian’s trip, there were regular calls and messages from her. On Nov. 10, Ashekian sent a text message wishing Kampstra’s two-year-old daughter a happy birthday.

Kampstra said Foreign Affairs Canada told her Ashekian’s passport records show Ashekian arrived in Hong Kong on Nov. 9. Her last credit card activity occurred the next day, taking two cash advances in Hong Kong currency.

Kampstra said Ashekian has never lost contact with the family before. She’s mystified over what could have happened to her sister. “In all of her travels, she’s always kept in touch somehow.”

“How could she live without money? Especially in Hong Kong,” Kampstra said. “Her passport shows her entering Hong Kong, but not exiting Hong Kong.”

Kampstra said the family is trying to stay positive. “I’m very worried,” she said. “I need to be strong to get Ani back. I can’t break down and be a mess.”

The family is offering a reward for information leading to Ashekian’s whereabouts. Calls are being taken at 519-967-0413.

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Hong Kong; Fundraiser held to help in search for Ani Ashekian

National Post Published: Monday, March 09, 2009

Sisters Rosie Kampstra, left, and Sossy Ashekian organized the Auction for Ani last night at the School Bakery and Cafe to raise money to help in the search for sister Ani Ashekian, who has been ...

A fundraiser was held last night to help in the search for a Toronto woman who went missing in Hong Kong late last year.
Ani Ashekian, a 30-year-old paralegal, has been missing for more than two months and the family has no new information about her disappearance.
Last night, the owner of School Bakery and Cafe, Brian Moore, offered up his Liberty Village restaurant for a fundraiser where organizers hoped to raise $5,000.

The middle of three girls whose parents run a dry cleaning business in Windsor, Ms. Ashekian left Toronto in late October for Beijing with a couple of friends and continued onto Hong Kong alone with plans to visit Cambodia and Vietnam before returning home via India before Christmas.

She arrived in Hong Kong on Nov. 9 and sent a brief text message to her older sister Rosie the next day, when there is also a confirmed sighting of her in Chungking Mansions, a nest of low-cost hostels and guest houses right around the corner from Hong Kong's swanky and famed Peninsula Hotel, but which lies way off the tourist map in almost every other way.

The 17-storey tower block is a labyrinth of curry houses, wire transfer offices and dirt-cheap hostels with inapt names like "Las Vegas" and "Fortunate Guesthouse."

Budget travellers sleep here alongside some of Hong Kong's poorest immigrants from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
But Chungking Mansions, with its dimly lit hallways and dirty elevators, is notorious among locals as a hub of petty crime and unsanitary, unsafe accommodation.

A Danish backpacker died there in a fire that killed 11 people in 1988. A 36-year-old Indian woman was strangled to death in one of the guest houses in 1995.

The building featured in the movie Chungking Express, which centred partly on the underworld drugs scene. Closed circuit TV footage shows Ms. Ashekian at about midnight on Nov. 10 withdrawing a few hundred dollars from an ATM in Causeway Bay, where there is another smattering of backpacker hostels. But since then, Ms. Ashekian has apparently disappeared, leaving no trace. Her credit card has not been used and no more cash has been withdrawn from her bank account.

She was due to fly back to Canada through India on Dec. 15, but never showed up at the airport.