A man has been found guilty of kidnapping model Chloe Ayling and sentenced to 16 years and nine months in prison.
Lukasz Herba, 30, denied his guilt to the Italian court, claiming that Ms Ayling, from Coulsdon, South London, agreed to the scheme in order to boost her own fame.
Prosecutors told the court Ms Ayling, 20, was drugged and kidnapped after she arrived at an address in Milan for a modelling job.
She was then held for six days at a farmhouse in the neighbouring Piedmont region before being released at the British consulate in Milan.
Reacting to the verdict, Ms Ayling said she feels ‘vindicated, according to her agent.
Adrian Sington, who represents Ms Ayling at Kruger Cowne, said: ‘This has been an incredible burden on her shoulders for the last year in the face of media criticism of her motivation and this is vindication – her story is true.
‘It means now she can get on with her life. It’s hard if you’re being painted in the press as a liar and now she’s able to be able to say, ‘I know it’s a bizarre story but it’s a true one’.
‘One of the difficulties with a psychopath and a narcissist, as Mr Herba is, is that he behaves in such a way that it’s almost impossible to believe that someone could be so stupid and so, in some ways, it’s not surprising that the media found Chloe’s story difficult to believe.
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‘Let’s not forget she was bundled into a suitcase, injected with ketamine in the boot of a car and thought she was going to die.’
Herba told the court that he was in love with Ayling, and they had concocted the kidnap plot to help her overcome financial difficulties following the birth of her son.
He said: ‘I never hurt the girl. I was not violent with her. If she felt forced verbally in any way, I am very sorry. But it certainly was not as Chloe has described.
‘I was in love and I was hoping that once her fame took off that she would repay me with feelings and we would share the money.’
Ms Ayling said in her original statement to police that she was held captive and never left the remote farmhouse dwelling where she was being detained.
She is reported to have said in her police statement to Milan police: ‘The man who was with me at the consulate – after my kidnapping at the studio and after two men took me to an apartment by car – was the only one who held me prisoner for entire duration of my kidnapping, who watched over me, stopped me from going out or escaping, threatening me that they would kill me if I did so.
‘From the moment I was kidnapped and held in the flat, the man who today took me to the consulate took off my handcuffs and the tape from my mouth, leaving just the handcuffs (attached to) my ankles which held me to a bedside table preventing me from moving freely or (any) possibility of escaping.’
Herba claimed the kidnapping was planned with Ms Ayling when they met in Paris.
His lawyer, Katia Kolakowska, told The Mirror: ‘He says the kidnap was a fabrication. They planned it together so she would become famous.’
Ms Ayling said she was to be sold online by the gang, known as ‘Black Death’, as a sex slave.
Herba claims he did not knowingly take part in any crime, his lawyer said.
He previously said his involvement stemmed from wanting to raise money to treat his leukaemia and that he was hired by a group of Romanians to rent properties around Europe to store garments they were selling.
He is also said to have told investigators he posed as a photographer and met Ms Ayling.
He said he was paid £500,000, found out the Romanians intended to kidnap her, and backed out of the plan.
Ayling told investigators that she never tried to escape, even when she accompanied Herba into a store to buy shoes, because she was terrified.
She said Herba showed her photos of other girls who were being sold over the dark web.
Herba also testified previously that he had concocted the alleged deep web criminal group ‘Black Death,’ and that his brother was helping him in the scheme agreed by Ayling.
Italian prosecutors are now seeking the brother’s extradition from Britain.
More to follow…