Model Chloe Ayling breaks her silence today to reveal her full astonishing account of how she was lured to a fake assignment in Milan then drugged, kidnapped, and held hostage by masked men to be sold as a sex slave in an internet auction
Model Chloe Ayling breaks her silence today to reveal her full astonishing account of how she was lured to a fake assignment in Milan then drugged, kidnapped, and held hostage by masked men to be sold as a sex slave in an internet auction.
In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, the 20-year-old tells, in her own words, the dramatic story of her capture and release that has made headlines around the world.
Held for six nights in a remote Italian farmhouse, the model was finally freed when her alleged captor Lukasz Herba, 30, a Polish national living in Oldbury, West Midlands, took her to the British Consulate in Milan.
Her account comes as The Mail on Sunday reveals new court documents confirming key details of her story.
Milan magistrate Dr Giovanna Campanile ruled Herba was ‘highly dangerous to society’ and should remain in custody ahead of his trial later this year. Dr Campanile added in a preliminary hearing on July 20: ‘There is grave evidence of the guilt of the arrested person, who has admitted to the Public Prosecutor that he was involved in the kidnap.’
We can also reveal that:Herba has given police the names of nine men he claims were also involved in the plot, including three men from Birmingham; His lawyer confirmed Herba had not implicated Miss Ayling, from Coulsdon, Surrey, as an accomplice in any way; The suspect arrived in Italy almost a month before the kidnap, paying £2,200 in cash to rent the building in Milan to which the young model was lured; Miss Ayling desperately tried to build an emotional bond with her captor – even sharing a bed – in a bid to win his trust and her eventual freedom.
Responding to suggestions of doubt about her story, Miss Ayling said last night: ‘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. It has been so frustrating and hurtful to have people not believe me. I know the truth, my family knows the truth and it will all come out at the trial.’
Her mother Bea said: ‘Chloe has been through a terrible ordeal. I don’t know how anybody can doubt her. She deserves our support after what she has been through.’
FREE AT LAST: Chloe Ayling – dressed in her captor’s tracksuit – sits in an Italian police station after being released from her kidnap terror. The picture was taken by police to send to her mother so she could be identified
After a painstaking three-week investigation, police in Italy charged Herba with kidnapping and extortion last Saturday, and Miss Ayling was finally allowed to return home to the UK.
Cosmo De Rose, the solicitor acting for Herba, said his client had not made any statement implicating Miss Ayling in the kidnap.
When asked if Herba had ever alleged that Miss Ayling had taken part in a conspiracy, he replied: ‘No. This has not emerged. Absolutely not. No, no, no.’
A source close to the prosecutor’s office in Milan said investigations are ongoing but Miss Ayling’s story was ‘credible’.
The source added that Miss Ayling’s account was backed by evidence of a puncture wound to her wrist where she was injected with the horse drug ketamine.
Her hair was found in the boot of the car Herba was driving, and forensic tests revealed traces of the drug in her body.
Chloe Ayling felt a growing sense of unease as she stepped into the dingy warehouse on the outskirts of Europe’s fashion capital Milan.
She had been expecting to find a bustling studio where she had been booked to star in a glamorous photoshoot advertising motorcycle leathers. Instead, she was met by an eerie silence.
Laying her black, wheeled suitcase on the tiled floor, Chloe, 20, was briefly reassured when, peering down the gloomy corridor, she saw a laminated sign on a door to her left marked ‘Studio’.
Dressed comfortably in a pink Zara jacket, pink body suit, blue River Island jeans and white Adidas trainers, she turned towards the door ready for her assignment.
A person taking part in a reenactment by Italian police shows how kidnapped British model Chloe Ayling was kept in a bag
But as she reached for the handle, a gloved hand suddenly came from behind and smothered her face.
Gripped by fear and panic, and unable to breathe, she tried desperately to wriggle free. Then, to her horror, a second attacker appeared in front of her, his face covered by a sinister black ski mask. Chillingly, he was brandishing a syringe.
Seconds later Chloe was wrestled to the floor, her jacket was ripped off her to expose her bare arms, and the syringe plunged into her right wrist. Within seconds she was unconscious.
That was the dramatic start of a terrifying kidnapping story that has made headlines around the world.
Today, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Chloe bravely reveals the full horror of her seven-day ordeal, in her own words…
TUESDAY, JULY 11
He had a syringe… then everything went black
‘I had never been to Italy before so I was really looking forward to it. I arrived a day early, so I could go shopping and be fresh for my shoot, and bought two bikinis.
‘The job had been booked by a photographer called Andre Lazio, who I had met briefly once before in Paris in April on another shoot that was cancelled at the last minute.’
Lukasz Herba, photographed by police after being arrested over the kidnapping of glamour model Chloe Ayling
In reality, Lazio was a 30-year-old Polish man, Lukasz Herba, living in a council flat in Oldbury, West Midlands, who was to become her abductor. He is now in custody in Italy charged with kidnapping and extortion. Friends of the self-proclaimed ‘businessman’ have revealed his ambitions to become a millionaire while neighbours branded him ‘creepy’ and a ‘fantasist’, and claimed he walked around with a large pet rat on his shoulder. His mother, who lives in Poland, insists her son has been caught up in a plot not of his making. While denying he was part of the initial kidnap gang, he has admitted his involvement to police in everything else.
‘He had sent me an email via my agent Phil Green giving me the address for the studio. He said the door would be open and I should let myself in. I walked through the open door and put my luggage down. I was expecting to hear people setting up the shoot but there was silence. It was a bit creepy but then I saw a door with a sign on it which said “Studio”. As I reached for the handle, I felt an arm come around my neck from behind me.I tried to scream but a gloved hand was covering my mouth and my nose.
I panicked because I couldn’t breathe and I brought my hands up to my face. I was trying to get his fingers off my nose and I managed to catch one breath.
‘Another man stepped in front of me wearing a black ski-mask. I could see only his eyes and mouth. He yanked my jacket off me and grabbed my right arm. He had a syringe in his right hand.
‘This was my worst nightmare. I didn’t know what was in the syringe. I was panicking. I thought they were going to rob or rape me. I was terrified beyond words.
They dragged me to the floor. I just gave up – I thought, “I’m not going to get out of here alive.” I felt trapped, then everything went black.’
Police forensic tests later showed the model had been injected with ketamine – a powerful horse tranquilliser. While unconscious, the men stripped Chloe of her trainers, jeans and baseball cap and, most disturbingly, took photos of her semi-naked body. They would later use the horrifying image to advertise her ‘for sale’ as a sex-slave on the dark web – an encrypted part of the internet used by criminals. Her clothes, passport, credit cards and iPhone were found the next day when police raided the address after Chloe’s agent raised the alarm.
Chloe was jumped by men in masks who inject her with ketamine before stripping her to her underwear and photographing her. The picture, above, was emailed to her agent and used to advertise her ‘for sale’ on the dark web.
‘I woke up in the boot of a moving car feeling terrible. It was like anyone’s worst nightmare come true. My mouth was taped shut. I could hear the car’s radio blaring.
‘Both my feet and hands were handcuffed in front of me. I realised I was inside a bag. I felt groggy, claustrophobic and I started panicking. I was wearing just my knickers, socks and body suit. I touched my face and managed to rip the tape off my mouth. The bag had a hole in so I could breathe and see out a little.
‘I managed to unzip it enough to get my arms out. The car was a hatchback and I started banging on the underneath of the flimsy retractable parcel shelf, shouting, “Driver, driver!”
‘The car radio was playing but they could hear me. I felt the car pull over. The boot opened and, through the hole in the bag, I saw two men in ski-masks standing over me.
‘I asked them, “What’s happening?” but they didn’t reply. It was terrifying. They calmly tightened my handcuffs and zipped the holdall back up.
‘We started moving again and it was so hot inside the bag that sweat was pouring off my face.
‘I managed to open the holdall again and was shouting. They stopped again and this time, pulled me up and cuffed my hands behind my back. As they were doing this I noticed, through a gap in the parcel shelf, that they had an empty suitcase sitting on top. It was about my size. That was the moment I gave up hope and accepted I was going to die.
‘I thought they were going to kill me and dump me in the suitcase. I thought, “I am never going to see my mum or my son Ashton again.”’
Having become frustrated at her yells and the banging, Chloe says her abductors pulled over for a third time. One of the men got into the boot with her for the remainder of the journey.
‘The man who got into the car with me was unmasked. He was tall and pale. He lay behind me, and spoke to me in English with a foreign accent. He told me, “You’re going to be fine. Nothing bad will happen to you.” I couldn’t believe him.
‘He took off my handcuffs and unzipped the bag a bit. I asked, “What is going on, where are we going?” But he wouldn’t tell me.
‘The journey felt like hours. We stopped and the boot opened. The unmasked man told me I must put the handcuffs back on or he would inject me again. I was zipped back up in the bag and lifted out of the back of the car.
‘They carried me for about two minutes and I could hear birds and I knew I was no longer in the city.
‘Then they carried me indoors, placed me down and unzipped the holdall and let me out.
‘The house was dark and cold – all the windows were shuttered. We were in a basic kitchen with a big wooden table, some cabinets and faded yellow walls. I was still in my underwear and felt incredibly vulnerable and scared.
‘They took the handcuffs off my wrists but left them on my ankles so I could just about hobble.
‘The unmasked man led me up the concrete stairs into a small room with wooden floors, a small bed, and a large chest of drawers which had a sleeping bag laid out next to it. I was allowed to go to the toilet. The man came in with me. It was awful.
‘Then the masked man came in and gestured for me to lay on the sleeping bag. He opened the handcuffs on one ankle, wrapped the chain around the drawer’s legs and re-attached it to my other ankle. He then re-attached the handcuffs to one wrist, and wrapped the chain around the leg of the chest of drawers.
‘They went back downstairs talking in a foreign language. The unmasked man then came back upstairs. He said they had just spoken to their boss and there had been a mistake. He said they had taken the wrong woman.
‘I felt a rush of relief because that might mean they would let me go. He said the boss was on his way and he had to leave me to go on another job. He left the room and a sudden wave of terror passed over me. I started hoping that the photographer Andre would report me missing.
‘It sounds crazy but I hoped I’d be freed that day. I was thinking how worried my mum would be when I heard someone enter the house through the front door.
‘There were raised, angry voices. A door slammed and a man sounded like he made an angry phone call. Another man came into the room. He unlocked my hands, took the tape off my mouth, and I turned to look at him.
Chloe is unable to say with any certainty that the man now in front of her was one of the two masked kidnappers from the car. But she is certain that she never saw the tall, pale man from the car boot again. He may be a Pole known as Tom, according to statements given to police by Herba.
‘The new man wasn’t wearing a mask. He told me: “I don’t know if you remember me but we met in Paris”. I was confused. I looked at him and asked, “Andre the photographer?” He said coldly, “I am definitely not a photographer.”
‘He told me he was a senior member of a gang called Black Death which kidnaps young white women and sells them online to wealthy Arabs. He said he was known in the gang as MD.’
In fact, Chloe would only come to know her abductor by his real name, Lukasz Herba, after his arrest when Italian police revealed his true identity.
‘He told me there had been a big mistake because they don’t kidnap mothers. He said the Paris photoshoot had been a trap to kidnap me but he had called it off after he looked at my Instagram photos and saw that I had a young son. He said he was angry at the men who kidnapped me because they had misread his email that said I “mustn’t” be kidnapped. He explained they thought it said “must”. I didn’t know what to believe. I just asked if they would let me go but he told me I had already been advertised and there was a lot of interest in me.
‘He said the auction would still go ahead in five days – Sunday – and the starting bid was $300,000 US dollars [£270,000]. That was too much to take in. I was in shock. That will always be the worst day of my life. Then he said he wanted to help me because I had been taken by mistake. He asked me what my family had to offer. It was just me and Mum at home, there was no way we could afford a ransom. I gave him the names of three people who might help.’
1. How did she know her abductor?
Chloe travels to Paris on April 21 for a £600 photoshoot booked through her modelling agent and paid for in advance. It is called off after a terror attack but Chloe meets Lukasz Pawel Herba, who booked the shoot posing as fashion photographer Andre Lazio, when he gives her money for a taxi to the airport.
Subsequently, neither she nor her agent have any concerns when he rearranges the shoot in Milan on July 11.
Many fashion shoots take place in industrial venues, with portable lighting and backdrop, so Chloe is not overly concerned by the building’s rundown exterior
2. Why did she fall for the fake studio?
Having flown from Gatwick to Milan on July 10, Chloe spends the day shopping and goes to bed early at her Best Western hotel. The next morning, following emailed instructions, she takes a taxi to the ‘studio’ – in reality a dingy warehouse – for the 9am motorbike-leathers shoot.
Many fashion shoots take place in industrial venues, with portable lighting and backdrop, so Chloe is not overly concerned by the building’s rundown exterior.
The next morning, following emailed instructions, she takes a taxi to the ‘studio’ – in reality a dingy warehouse – for the 9am motorbike-leathers shoot
3. Why didn’t she make bolt for freedom?
Chloe is jumped by men in masks who inject her with ketamine before stripping her to her underwear and photographing her. The picture is emailed to her agent and used to advertise her ‘for sale’ on the dark web.
Police storm the site on July 12 and find Chloe’s clothes, inset below, and passport. Police staged a re-enactment to show how she could be put in a bag and carried in the boot of the car to a farmhouse three hours from Milan. Forensic evidence later confirms her hair in the boot and traces of ketamine are found in her hair.
4. Why did she share a bed with her abductor?
Awake on arrival, Chloe is handcuffed to a chest of drawers in one of the house’s two bedrooms. Her captor, claiming to be a member of the Black Death gang, tells her she will be auctioned as a sex slave on the dark web for $300,000 (£270,000). He shows her two knives and warns that if she tries to escape, she will be killed. After 24 hours, he invites Chloe to sleep in his double bed, right, in the farmhouse’s master bedroom. She agrees, hoping to win his trust and have her life spared.
5. Why did she go ‘shopping’ with her abductor?
Some reports have claimed the pair went shopping. In fact, after five days in captivity, having feigned an emotional bond with Herba, Chloe is told she will be released the next day. Until then, she has been wearing his boxer shorts and a T-shirt. He gives her his tracksuit and flip-flops and takes her to a camping shop, left, in a nearby village where he spends €40 on a pair of grey Lotto trainers. They also buy fruit. Believing she is being watched by Black Death throughout, she is too terrified to raise the alarm.
6. Why did he take her to the British consulate?
Over the course of the week, Chloe rejects Herba’s advances, but tells him a relationship may be possible once she is free. Herba tells her he will hand her over to the British Consulate in Milan on July 17, demanding she tell officials he’s a friend. But