Police have arrested a man in connection with the murder of Ashley Olsen, the American artist strangled to death in Florence.
Olsen, 35, died when she was strangled with a USB wire or cord after taking part in a ‘consensual, erotic sex game’, an autopsy has found.
Earlier police had said a potential suspect thought to be a drug dealer was seen with her on CCTV from outside her apartment. It is not clear if the suspect, who has been described as a non-EU male by the ANSA news agency, is the same person.
Olsen was found by her boyfriend on Saturday after failing to get in touch with him. He tried desperately to revive her but she was already dead.
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Victim: Ashley Olsen, 35, was found dead in her flat in Florence, Italy on Saturday by her boyfriend, an Italian artist. He has been entirely cleared by police. Sources said he had a watertight alibi
Search: Forensic officers spent all day at Ashley Olsen’s apartment. Police have identified an apparent suspect, seen on CCTV with her close to the building
Painstaking: A forensic team leaves the house in Florence, where Ashley Olsen was strangled with a USB cord
Painstaking: The officer in charge of the homicide squad said the search would take some time
Speaking out: Walter Olsen, pictured in Florence, said: ‘She was a beautiful and creative young woman with a happy, exuberant and generous soul. We are heartbroken that she was taken from us.’
Couple: Federico Fiorentini (left) and Ashley Olsen (right) were together for seven years. Police say he is not a suspect. He found her body and tried to revive her with CPR.
Detectives have now pieced together a timeline of her last hours which shows that she spent time at Montecarla, a sleazy bar and nightclub which has been repeatedly linked to drugs in the early hours of Friday morning.
After leaving by herself, Olsen met a man after arranging the liaison via mobile phone.
A witness saw them together and described the man to the police, and the two were captured on CCTV walking together to Olsen’s chic apartment.
Olsen’s mother is flying to Italy tonight and is expected to arrive tomorrow, where she and the victim’s father, Walter Olsen, will say their final goodbyes and decide where she will be buried.
As the central heating was turned up in the apartment, investigators found it difficult to pinpoint the time of death, but their best estimations place it between seven in the morning and one in the afternoon on Friday.
Investigators have not disclosed whether drugs were found in the apartment.
Alessandro Ausenda, chief of the homicide squad said as he left the scene of the crime today: ‘The forensic investigation will take a long time.’
Witnesses at the club told Daily Mail Online she had been there and left alone, despite arriving with friends.
Giulia, a bartender at the Montecarla who saw the victim at the club said: ‘She was a chilled-out person, I’d even call her delicate.
‘She came into the club at 4:30am, had a drink and left at 5:30am. She was tense and before leaving she had a difference of opinion with a female friend.’
The move forward in the investigation came after Walter Olsen, an art professor in the same city who lives round the corner from his daughter’s apartment, paid tribute to his ‘beautiful and creative’ daughter and said he had faith in the murder investigation.
The 35-year-old was last seen alive at the Montecarla club, an insalubrious members-only establishment
Key to investigation: The Montecarla club ‘is a place where you can find anything you are looking for, sex, drugs, transexuals,’ said a woman in a nearby bar
Detectives have also cleared entirely her boyfriend, Italian-American artist Federico Fiorentini, 42, has a watertight alibi, and confirmed that he is not a suspect.
‘We are devastated that our precious Ashley has passed away resulting from a horrible and senseless crime,’ he said.
‘She was a beautiful and creative young woman with a happy, exuberant and generous soul, and she loved her life in Florence, in San Frediano.
‘We are heartbroken that she was taken from us.’
After making an appeal for his privacy to be respected, he added: ‘We have faith that the perpetrator will be found and sentenced. We thank everyone for their loving thoughts and prayers.’
Olsen – who is a professor of architecture, design and drawing at Bianca Cappello Art Academy in the city – has not been seen in public since Monday.
That day he laid a bouquet of flowers outside his daughter’s apartment flanked by police officers and officials from the American consulate in Florence.
He bowed his head and stood for a few minutes in silence before placing the flowers on her doorstep.
For the past few days he has been enduring an agonising wait for his daughter’s autopsy to be over so that he can ‘hug [his] daughter one last time’.
Her boyfriend is also said to be devastated. He is being comforted by his mother and sister, who both live in the city.
According to a local café owner who has known Fiorentini since he was a child, this was his second relationship with an American woman.
The first had ended amid so much heartache that Fiorentini had been left with emotional scars.
‘He is a fragile person and suffers a lot inside,’ the café owner told Daily Mail Online. ‘The experience made the argument he had with Ashley much worse.’
In charge: Alessandro Ausenda, chief of the homicide squad (center) said as he left the scene of the crime today: ‘The forensic investigation will take a long time.’
The victim’s beloved dog, Scout, was present when she was murdered and was found in great distress, surrounded by his own urine and feces, when the body was discovered
Friends of the couple describe Fiorentini as a withdrawn, introverted figure, devoted to his cat and to his art but uncomfortable in social situations.
One woman who hosted a New Year’s Eve party for 300 people which both Olsen and Fiorentini attended, described him as having ‘a blank face’.
‘I have known him for years and I’ve never seen him smile,’ she said.
On Saturday, concerned by the fact that Olsen had not been seen for days, Fiorentini persuaded her landlord to open the door to her chic apartment.
There he found her dead on her bed – which was raised on a mezzanine level – wearing nothing but her socks. Her beloved pet dog, Scout, was in a state of great distress, surrounded by his own faeces and urine.
Fiorentini panicked, lifting Olsen’s body down onto the floor and desperately applying CPR. As he later explained to police, in the process he sustained scratches to his knuckles.
He telephoned an ambulance, and police were alerted.
‘I thought I might be able to save her,’ he told friends. ‘I loved Ashley and I will absolutely find who killed her. They will pay for what they did.’
Her best friends also released a moving tribute to the victim.
‘We are bereft and numbed by what has happened,’ the statement said.
‘This is horrific and unimaginable… Our thoughts and love go to Ashley’s father, mother, and sister, and to all of her family.’