A British model who was allegedly kidnapped and detained for six days in Italy while her captors attempted to sell her in an online auction says she feared for her life after returning to her London home.
Chloe Ayling, a 20-year-old mother of one, said she was attacked by two men after arriving in Milan in mid-July to take part in a photo shoot arranged by her agent.
Ayling was drugged and placed in a bag before being transported to a cabin in a remote town in the Italian Alps, she told authorities.
“A person wearing black gloves came up from behind and put one hand on my neck and the other on my mouth, while a second person, wearing a black balaclava, injected me in my right arm,” she said in a statement to police, which was published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
“I think I lost consciousness. When I woke up I was wearing a pink bodysuit and the socks I’m in now…I realized I was in the boot of a car, with my wrists and ankles tied and my mouth taped. I was inside a bag, with only a small hole that allowed me to breathe.”
“I’ve been through a terrifying experience. I feared for my life, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour,” Ayling reportedly told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. “I am incredibly grateful to the Italian and UK authorities for all they have done to secure my safe release.”
Lukasz Herba, a 30-year-old Polish national who resides in the United Kingdom, was arrested on kidnapping charges after dropping Ayling off outside the British consulate building in Milan on July 17, police said.
Kidnapped for auction
According to police, Ayling arrived in Milan on July 10 after agreeing to take part in a photo shoot which had been arranged through her agent for the following day.
Police said that she was then attacked on July 11 by two men after arriving at the apartment where the photo shoot was supposed to take place.
She was taken to a cabin on the outskirts of Lemie, a remote town in the Italian Alps, where she was kept handcuffed to a wooden chest of drawers in a bedroom for a week, police said.
The suspect allegedly used encrypted accounts to ask the model’s agent for $300,000 to stop the online auction from going ahead, according to Italian police.
The suspect also allegedly told the agent that he was operating on behalf of “the Black Death group,” an organization involved in illegal trafficking on the dark web, a layer of the internet accessible only through anonymizing networks like Tor.
Ayling told the Telegraph that her kidnapper said she was being released because she had a young child, and that such an abduction contravened the group’s rules.
Italian investigators have since established that the suspect had already organized several online auctions for the sale of kidnapped girls, referring to them as “prey.”
The websites for the auctions included a description of the victim and a starting price but police said it was still unclear whether the suspect had made them up.
Authorities said they are searching for at least one more person in connection with the kidnapping.
Investigations in the case are ongoing in Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom.