A British model who was allegedly abducted in Milan by kidnappers who planned to sell her as a sex slave has said doubts over her account of the ordeal have been “frustrating and hurtful”.
Chloe Ayling, 20, told Italian police she was attacked by two men as she attended a photoshoot on the outskirts of the city in July. She says she was then drugged and transported in a bag to Borgial, an isolated village near Turin.
Lukasz Pawel Herba, 30, a Polish national who lives in Britain, has been charged with kidnapping and extortion. He reportedly told Ayling that he had planned to sell her as a sex slave on the dark web for £270,000 before he realised that she had a two-year-old child. After six days holding her in captivity he took her to the British consulate in Milan.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Ayling described the kidnapping, saying she was injected with the horse tranquilliser ketamine before waking up in a car boot, wearing only her underwear, with tape over her mouth and her hands and feet bound.
After arriving at a house, Herba told her a mistake had been made and that the criminal gang he worked for had a policy not to sell mothers as sex slaves. “He told me he was an assassin for [a gang called] Black Death and showed me two knives,” Ayling said.
“He said his favourite method of murder was poison. He was talking so casually, it was terrifying. He said that he had worked for Black Death for five years and had earned $15m [£11.5m].”
After five days in the house, Ayling, from south London, was taken to a camping shop by her captor to buy trainers and fruit. “He said I would be crazy to try to escape now because I would be instantly killed,” she said. “He said we were no longer in Italy, somewhere very remote, and that Black Death agents were nearby.”
As well as sending ransom emails to Ayling’s agent and three of her wealthy contacts, it emerged that Herba also emailed three British media organisations informing them of Chloe’s kidnapping and imminent auction.
Journalists at the Daily Mirror, the Sun and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme reported receiving images that appeared to show Ayling in a dazed state on the floor next to a text that read “for sale by Russian mafia”. The police asked the media not to report the emails at the time.
Italian police have been quoted by local media as describing Herba as a “dangerous person with traces of mythomania”. Despite his reported claim that he belonged to a gang, Herba also told police he had leukaemia and was desperate for money for treatment, and that a group of Romanians in Birmingham pressured him into the kidnapping.
“I lay on the double bed, he sat down next to me and he talked at me for hours,” Ayling told the newspaper. “He was not interested in talking about me – it was as if he was trying to impress me and feed his ego.”
Herba eventually said he would take Ayling to the British Consulate in Milan on the condition that she paid Black Death $50,000 (£39,000) within one month of her release.
“I feel so happy to be home but I still feel wary. In the back of my mind part of me is still worried that maybe Black Death is real and they will come after me,” said Ayling.
“I understand why people have questions. People need to understand that everything I did was so I could survive. I was in a crazy situation and I was terrified every minute. I thought I was never going to get home. It has been so frustrating and hurtful to have people not believe me and to cast doubt on what I have been through.”