Lawyer: UK model’s ‘strange’ tale of Italian kidnap is true
LONDON — A 20-year-old British model’s ordeal sounds like a tale spawned by nightmares of the evil that lurks online.
Chloe Ayling said she was lured to Italy with the promise of a photo shoot, then drugged, stuffed into a suitcase, transported to an isolated farmhouse and held, at times in handcuffs, for almost a week.
Ayling has told police the “terrifying experience” ended when her captor, who had threatened to hold her for ransom or advertise her as sex slave on the criminal “dark web,” decided instead to drop her off at the British consulate in Milan.
Lawyer Francesco Pesce told the Associated Press at first investigators had “more than understandable doubts”, but eventually arrested 30-year-old Lukasz Pawel Herba who claimed to be a paid killer for a group called the Black Death.
Pesce and Milan police have all given broadly the same account of the sensational events.
The model went to Milan on July 11 for a photo shoot at what her agent, Phil Green, said was “a recognized studio in the city center.” When she got there, her lawyer said, a man grabbed her by the neck while another injected her with a dose of the anesthetic Ketamine “strong enough to knock her to the ground.”
“Then she was stuffed in a black sports bag, like she was an object, and then transported over winding, unpaved roads for more than two hours … bound hand and foot and with tape across her mouth,” Pesce said.
Milan police said Ayling was taken to a rural house near Turin in northern Italy, where she was kept handcuffed to a wooden dresser. They said Herba advertised her “sale” online, while at the same time demanded $300,000 ransom from her agent. Authorities said as far as they know, no ransom was paid.
Then, on July 17, Ayling was dropped off at the British consulate in Milan. The next day, police arrested Herba, a Polish citizen with British residency.
Milan police officer Lorenzo Bucossi said Herba described himself as a “paid killer” for a mercenary organization. Others have suggested he is a fantasist.
According to Italian media reports, Ayling said she was released when her captor discovered she had a small child. He said abducting a mother was against the rules of his shadowy criminal organization.
Britain’s National Crime Agency said British police are working with Italian authorities and searched a house in central England linked to Herba.
On Sunday — almost three weeks after she says she was released — Ayling returned to Britain.
“I’ve been through a terrifying experience,” Ayling told reporters on the doorstep of her home in south London on Sunday. “I’ve feared for my life, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour.”
Green, who runs the Supermodel Agency with which Ayling is affiliated, said Monday that she was undergoing “debriefing” with government officials and the police and could not speak further to the press.
He asked the media to “respect the fact she does need some time alone.”
Pesce said he had “never seen such strength and such courage in a girl of 20 years,” describing how Ayling accompanied detectives to the farmhouse and recounted her ordeal.
“The most beautiful moment was to see her emerge with a real smile” after showing investigators what happened in the house, he said.
Pesce said Ayling was able “to describe exactly the places she was held, to recount everything, barely shed a tear, and then feel finally free.”