A British glamor model who says she was kidnapped to be sold for sex in the Middle East and held captive for six days was taken on a shoe shopping trip by her abductor, it has emerged.
Italian police say Chloe Ayling, 20, was abducted on July 11 after arriving in Milan for what she thought was a photoshoot arranged through her agent.
Upon reaching the studio, however, the mother-of-one claims she was assaulted and drugged with the horse tranquilizer ketamine, dumped in a car trunk, and driven to a remote farm where she was kept prisoner for six days by a man who said he was part of a criminal gang called Black Death.
Ayling told Italian police she was kept handcuffed to a wooden dresser in a bedroom until she was released on July 17 and taken to the British Consulate by Lukasz Pawel Herba, a British resident born in Poland.
He has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping her and threatening to auction her as a sex slave on the dark web unless a ransom of £270,000 ($300,000) was paid.
Herba, 30, a Polish national who lives in Oldbury, is said to have paid her agent cash to fly out to the northern Italian city for the job, but the pair are said to have met earlier when the model was caught up in a terrorist shooting in Paris in April.
A close friend of Ayling told the Daily Mail that the pair had met when she was in Paris for a photoshoot before Herba called her agency and booked the job in Milan.
“During the kidnapping, Chloe lost her shoes. He took her to buy some new ones during her ordeal.”
Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that when the model was questioned about the shoe shopping trip, she cried.
Ayling’s lawyer, Francesco Peschi, told the BBC that she had been acting under duress when she was taken shopping by her captor.
“She was told that people were there watching her and were ready to kill her if she tried anything,” Peschi said.
“So she thought that the best idea was to go along with it and be nice to her captor, because he told her he wanted to release her somehow and some time.”
Ayling, who is now back at her home in Coulsdon, south London, told reporters outside her home on Monday: “I’ve been through a terrifying experience. I feared for my life second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the Italian and UK authorities for all they have done to secure my safe release. I have just arrived home after four weeks of being in Italy and I haven’t had the time to gather my thoughts.
“I’m not at liberty to say anything further until I have been debriefed by the UK police.”
Black Death, the organized crime group suspected of her kidnap, claimed they released her after finding out she has a two-year-old child, Italian police say.
Investigators said they found a letter after searching a computer belonging to the gang, which read: “You are being released as a huge generosity from Black Death Group. Your release does, however, come with a warning and you should read this letter very carefully.
“You are certainly aware of your value on [the] human slavery market and must make a note that this isn’t personal, this is business. For your release, we have taken a number of factors into consideration.
“A mistake was made by capturing you, especially considering you are a young mother that should have in no circumstances been lured into kidnapping.”