A British glamour model who claimed she had been kidnapped in Italy and offered for sale on the dark web left police with “understandable doubts” about her story, her lawyer has said.
According to Italian police Chloe Ayling, from Coulsdon in south London, was snatched last month in Milan by a group calling itself Black Death.
The model, 20, who has posed topless for tabloid newspapers, went to Milan on 11 July for a photo shoot at what her agent Phil Green described as a “recognised studio in the city centre”.
But her lawyer, Francesco Pesce, said that when she arrived a man grabbed her by the neck while another injected her with a dose of the drug Ketamine which was “strong enough to knock her to the ground”.
Mr Pesce added: “Then she was stuffed in a black sports bag like she was an object, and transported over winding, unpaved roads for more than two hours… bound hand and foot and with tape across her mouth.”
Police in Milan said Ms Ayling was kept handcuffed to a wooden dresser at a rural house near Turin.
A suspect in custody, Lukasz Pawel Herba, advertised her “sale” online, while also demanding a $ 300,000 ransom from Mr Green, according to police.
But on 17 July, Ms Ayling was dropped off at the British consulate in Milan. The following day Herba, a Polish citizen with British residency, was arrested.
Mr Pesce said police initially had “more than understandable doubts” about the model’s story.
He said: “It seems incredible. A man kidnaps, together with others, a girl, and after a week, citing particular reasons, accompanies her inside a consulate … (and) practically hands her over to police
“This at first was doubted by investigators but the story later turned out to be true.”
The police, Mr Pesce and Mr Green have all given broadly the same account.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Pesce said Ms Ayling was “told that she was going to be sold to somebody in the Middle East for sex”.
She was also told people were watching and ready to kill her is she “tried anything”, he added.
“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.”
Mr Pesce described suggestions that Ms Ayling may have been somehow in on the kidnap as “evil”.
Ms Ayling’s passport was taken by Italian police, who would not let her return to the UK until she had given evidence at a pre-trial hearing on 4 August, Mr Green said.
Since getting back, Ms Ayling has made a brief statement, saying: “I’ve been through a terrifying experience. I feared for my life, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Italian and UK authorities for all they have done to secure my safe release.”