CHLOE Ayling is a British model who was allegedly kidnapped in Italy with the intention of being auctioned as a sex slave.
Mum-of-one Chloe says she was taken captive by the “Black Death” group before being freed six days later – but as key questions begin to emerge, we look at the police investigation and massive media interest surrounding the case and accusations she fabricated the claims.
Who is Chloe Ayling?
Chloe Ayling is a 20-year-old British glamour model and Instagram star.
The mum-of-one was allegedly snatched by an infamous sex trafficking gang and held captive for six days in a remote Italian farmhouse.
She says masked men snatched her after luring her to Milan with promises of a lucrative photoshoot which turned out to be fake.
She told police she was then drugged and stuffed inside a bag before being auctioned on the dark web for £270,000.
Describing her abduction she said: “A person with black gloves placed a hand over my mouth from behind while a second person wearing a balaclava gave me an injection in my right arm.
“I believe I lost consciousness because when I woke up, I was wearing just my pink undershirt made of chenille, and the socks I am now wearing, and I realised I was in the coffin of a car, my ankles and wrists in handcuffs, with a black tape covering my mouth, inside a bag where there was just a small hole in the zipper that allowed me to breathe.
“They had taken off my jacket, my blue jeans, and sneakers.”
She later told This Morning she had expected to die, saying: “I was just hoping for a non-painful death.”
Who are the Black Death Group?
The name is notorious on sections of the internet due to the scale and depravity of its alleged offences, though it’s not clear if the photos it uses touting women for sale are authentic, nor if it is as proficient as it claims to be.
It has been reported that users of the “dark web” pay huge fees to buy women who have been kidnapped from across Europe.
A 2015 article by Vice’s Motherboard stated their reporter had found images of women chained up with the victim being offered for sale £115,000.
Who are Lukasz Herba and Michal Konrad Herba?
Polish-born Lukasz Herba, 30, appeared in an Italian court for a pre-trial hearing.
Police officers have also arrested his brother Michal Konrad Herba who was arrested via a European Arrest Warrant on August 16.
Police say Lukasz Herba demanded £270,000 to stop the auction, hosted on pornographic sites on the dark web.
He later said he would pay most of the ransom if she could find three people to hand over the remaining £38,000.
Lukasz Herba was arrested on July 17 after delivering Chloe to the British consulate in Milan. She says he took pity on her after she told him she had a two-year-old son.
Lukasz Herba told police he had no idea of the kidnap plan when he was paid £500,000 by Romanians to pose as a photographer and meet Ms Ayling.
He said when he found out they were planning to kidnap her he backed out of the plan.
On August 16, police announced they had also arrested Herba’s brother, Michal Konrad Herba, using a European Arrest Warrant after a raid in the West Midlands.
On September 29, a judge has ruled that Michal Herba should be extradited to Italy to face trial.
Michal’s lawyers suggested the entire case may be a “sham” invented as a “publicity stunt” to boost Ms Ayling’s career.
But, at a hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, District Judge Paul Goldspring said the 36-year-old should be extradited to Italy to join his brother, Lukasz, to face allegations they kidnapped the model.
“I have decided you should be surrendered to Italy to face trial for the kidnap,” the judge told Herba.
What happened during the six days Chloe says she was in captivity?
Chloe told police how, on her first night in the mountain hideout, she was handcuffed to a chest of drawers.
But she says for her remaining nights in captivity near the French border, Lukasz Herba – who she has identified as a captor – slept beside her in a double bed.
Chloe told officers 30-year-old Lukasz Herba — who claimed to be part of a shadowy group of internet sex traffickers called Black Death — never sexually assaulted her.
And each morning he gave her gifts of underwear and chocolate.
Chloe, from Coulsdon, South London, gave her account in statements made to cops and seen by The Sun.
She said: “From the second night he took the cuffs from my feet, assuring me that sooner or later I’d be freed so I had no need to escape.
“From that moment I always slept in his room, sharing the bed. To be clear, he didn’t molest me sexually or ask for sexual favours.”
She said she was so scared of being poisoned she drank only from sealed bottles and refused proper meals before developing a “trusting relationship” with her captor.
It also emerged the alleged kidnapper also tried to sell a story to a British newspaper while holding Chloe captive.
The model said she knew nothing about the Lukasz Herba trying to contact the media when quizzed by by police, according to the Daily Telegraph.
She has since said she was petrified she would be killed if she tried to escape.
Why was Chloe Ayling released?
A note found on Lukasz Herba’s computer after Chloe was freed bizarrely reads: “You are being released as a huge generosity from Black Death Group.”
It says her kidnapping was a mistake and that “our main and very well respected men” insisted on her release.
The note added: “A mistake was made by capturing you, especially considering you are a young mother that should have in no circumstances be lured into kidnapping.”
It ends: “You have also agreed to pay outstanding costs of your release of $50,000 — paid in Bitcoins within one month. Any disobedience will result in your elimination.”
What has Chloe said about claims she made up the kidnapping?
Chloe’s lawyer has slammed “evil” claims she lied about being kidnapped and was in on a plot with her alleged abductor.
The 20-year-old was told people were watching her and she would be killed if she tried to flee, meaning she complied with what her captor asked her to do, her lawyer Francesco Pesce said.
He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “She was told that she was going to be sold to somebody in the Middle East for sex.
“She was told that people were there watching her and ready to kill her if she tried anything.
“So she thought that the best idea was to go along with it and to be nice in a way to her captor because he told her that he wanted to release her somehow and sometime and she thought that the best thing to do was not to go in conflict with him.
“So she abided to his request, ‘let’s go and buy groceries’ and ‘you need shoes, let’s go buy shoes’ and she didn’t try to flee.
“But I believe she was terrified at the moment and even if she could’ve asked for help she didn’t because she was subjugated to this person, or people as she was given to understand.”
On August 9 her full testimony to Italian cops was released in which she claimed the kidnapping process began as far back as the night of the Paris terror attack in November 2015 following a cancelled photoshoot.
It was also revealed she has signed with an after dinner speaking agency.
What concerns have been raised about the allegations?
Questions have been raised after the pair were seen shoe shopping and casually eating breakfast at a cafe during the time Chloe said she was “fearing for her life” in captivity.
Witnesses who saw her with suspected abductor Lukasz Herba said they thought they were a couple.
One even claimed he had seen the pair laughing and joking together while visiting a cafe in Milan, Italy.
Chloe’s lawyer confirmed she went shopping for groceries and shoes with Polish-born Herba a day before she turned up at the British consulate, saying she’d been kidnapped.
A waiter at the city’s Farina Cucina cafe told how he saw Chloe with Herba before they walked into the British consulate.
He said: “She seemed happy and relaxed, they stayed for about two hours.
“They were laughing and joking.”
Residents in the village where Chloe claims she was held captive have also said they thought Chloe and Lukasz Herba were a couple when they arrived at a farmhouse.
They say they also saw the pair walking around and buying a pizza from a local takeaway.
Cesare Prati who rented the white house to Lukasz Herba for €300 for 20 days, said: ‘The whole affair seems strange – I heard from friends she was going round the village. What kind of kidnap is that?”
Lawyer George Hepburne Scott, representing Michal Herba in his extradition hearing claimed the whole story could be a “publicity stunt”
He raised questions over the account given by Ms Ayling and said: “There is a real risk that the entire case is a sham.
“The same complainant, it seems, generated publicity from the fact she was nearby the scene of a terrorist attack at the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
“Prior to the release of the complainant, the kidnapper apparently issued a press release to a tabloid newspaper setting out that this lady was being held for auction.”
A ransom demand to her agent has also been revealed, with the note saying: “I am sure that this experience properly exposed to the media will kickstart her career.”
Chloe’s agent Phil Green told Good Morning Britain that he was “hacked off” after being dumped by the model – but maintained that she had been through an awful ordeal.