British model’s Italy abduction ‘linked to Arab buyers’ amid reports of hoax
A British model at the center of an alleged kidnapping in Italy was reportedly going to be sold as a sex slave in the "Arab world," by a group named Black Death – believed to be behind her abduction.
The Italian press has claimed when her "buyer" would tire of her, she would have either been “passed on” or "fed to tigers."
Chloe Ayling told police she had been lured to Milan last month for a photo shoot, according to police documents reviewed by Reuters. She said that on arrival at the studio she was drugged, gagged, bound, stuffed into a bag, put into the boot of a car and driven to a village in northwest Italy where she was held for six days.
Her kidnapper Lukasz Pawel Herba, 30, a British resident born in Poland, then released her to the British consulate in Milan.
Four or five men were involved in the kidnapping, according to her account. Herba told police he freed her and handed her to the consulate after the group became aware she had a young child, according to documents outlining his testimony.
Italian police arrested the alleged kidnapper who confessed to being involved in a plot to auction the model online unless a $300,000 ransom was paid.
Ayling’s lawyer has denied suggestions that the case was a hoax, after local media raised doubts about her story.
People in the Italian village where Ayling said she was held captive told local media that she and the man went out together.
Some residents told state broadcaster Rai that the couple went to a bar and that she also went shoe shopping with Herba, 30, before he released her to the British consulate.
"The implication that she was involved (in the plot) - as I read with disgust in some newspapers this morning - is just unimaginable," Milan-based lawyer Francesco Pesce told Reuters.
Pesce said the kidnappers had removed Ayling's restraints in the village but threatened to kill her if she tried to run away or tell anyone she was being held there against her will.
"A 20-year-old, drugged, stuffed into a bag and kidnapped ... I can well understand that she believed them," he said.
"There doesn't need to be a physical restraint if there is a death threat ... The girl said she tried to be very compliant with him (Herba)," Pesce added.
The model, who returned to Britain on Sunday, says she was was drugged and kidnapped on July 11 after going to what turned out to be a set-up photo shoot in downtown Milan.
"Somebody wearing black gloves came up from behind me and put one hand on my neck and the other over my mouth, while a second person wearing a balaclava injected me in my right arm," the woman, was quoted as telling police by Italy's Corriere della Sera.
"I think I passed out because when I woke up I only had on my pink chenille body and socks and I realized I was in the boot of a car, bound at the ankle and wrists with my mouth taped up. I was in a luggage bag with only a small gap to breathe through."
After a three-hour journey from Milan to a remote mountain village, the model was held until July 17, spending most of her time handcuffed to furniture while her abductors considered their options.
Many details of the extraordinary case remain unclear, although police have confirmed that the victim was injected with the tranquilizer ketamine and said they believe Herba may have been capable of causing her serious physical harm.
However, his account of events in other respects has been described by the prosecutor in charge of the case as barely credible.
Detectives are unclear as to whether Herba was involved in a credible attempt to auction his victim or if it was an elaborately staged threat intended to extort a ransom from the model's agent and family.
No one took part in the online auction, so it was unclear if Herba had the necessary contacts to organize such an operation of was something of a fantasist, according to the police.
"Fantasist or not, what is clear is that he is a very dangerous man who drugged his victim as soon as she was kidnapped and put her inside a large travel bag in the boot of a car," Milan deputy prosecutor Paolo Storari told a press conference on Saturday.
"His version of events is barely credible but clearly he does not deny that he was with her for the time she was missing," Storari said.
(With Reuters and AFP)