Chloe Ayling says she was lured to Milan for a photoshoot before being drugged and held captive. (Instagram)
A Polish man who kidnapped and held for ransom a 20-year-old British model has been sentenced to more than 16 years in prison by an Italian court.
- Prosecutors said the model was drugged, put inside a canvas bag and held in a farmhouse for six days
- Herba claims that Ms Ayling was in on the kidnapping in a plot to ease her financial difficulties
- Herba’s lawyer said she would appeal the sentence, citing the fact that Ms Ayling was unharmed
Chloe Ayling told Italian police she had been lured to a photo shoot in Italy’s fashion capital last northern summer, abducted and held captive for six days.
Her lawyer said the plot was to sell her for sex in an online auction unless a ransom was paid.
Ms Ayling denied suggestions the kidnapping was a hoax after it was reported she had gone on a shopping trip with her alleged captor, 30-year-old Lukasz Pawel Herba.
Herba’s sentence of 16 years and nine months exceeded the prosecutor’s request by one month.
Italian law foresees a sentence of 25 to 30 years for kidnapping and extortion, but prosecutors asked the court in Milan to make allowance for the short duration of the abduction and a narcissistic personality disorder from which Herba was said to have.
Herba held Ms Ayling in a farmhouse for six days, before releasing her at the British consulate in Milan. (AP: Antonio Calanni)
One lawyer for Ms Ayling, Francesco Pesce, called it “quite an important verdict”.
He said he would seek half a million euros in compensation in separate proceedings, while conceding it was unlikely Herba would be able to pay.
In his closing arguments, fellow prosecutor Paolo Storari pointed to the possibility Ms Ayling could have died during the July 11-17, 2017 kidnapping.
“Chloe was treated like something used to satisfy his evil narcissistic needs,” Mr Storari said in court.
He said the model was drugged with ketamine, which knocked her out, then put inside a canvas bag and transported to a farmhouse, where she was handcuffed to the furniture for at least the first night.
As part of the trial Italian Police conducted a re-enactment to show how Ms Ayling was transported. (Supplied: Italian Police)
‘I never hurt the girl’
Herba denied guilt throughout the trial, and claimed Ms Ayling agreed to the scheme to boost her career.
In a declaration that defendants are allowed to have in an Italian court, Herba said he had been in love with Ms Ayling, and they had concocted the kidnap plot to help her overcome financial difficulties after the birth of her son.
“I never hurt the girl. I was not violent with her,” Herba said.
“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.”
Previous testimony showed the two had met on Facebook and had met at least once in person before her pregnancy.
According to prosecutors, Ms Ayling was lured to Milan with the promise of a modelling gig and then drugged when she showed up at a mocked-up photographic studio.
She was zipped inside a canvas pack and transported to a secluded farmhouse in neighbouring Piedmont.
There she was held for six days before Herba released her at the British consulate in Milan.
In his initial statement to police, he said he did so out of sympathy for the fact she was a mother.
Defence claims Ayling’s story came from movie plot
Ms Ayling told investigators she never tried to escape, even when she accompanied Herba into a store to buy shoes, because she was terrified, believing his threats that he was part of a bigger criminal gang that had eyes on her constantly.
Ms Ayling said she had been told she would be auctioned off online since she was not able to come up with the 300,000 euros the criminal “Black Death” group was seeking.
She said Herba showed her photos of other girls who were reportedly being sold over the deep web.
But in his shifting story line, Herba also testified previously he had concocted the alleged criminal group and that his brother was helping him in the scheme agreed to by Ms Ayling.
Italian prosecutors are seeking the brother’s extradition from Britain.
Herba said he didn’t tell police Ms Ayling was in on the scheme during his initial statements because he believed she would come forward herself and defend him.
During closing arguments, his lawyer, Katia Kolakowska, cited an email she received from a US film producer, who pointed out Ms Ayling’s story closely matched the plot of a movie By Any Means, that was released about eight weeks before the kidnapping.
After the verdict, Ms Kolakowska expressed disappointment the court did not take into account that Ms Ayling emerged from the ordeal unharmed, which would have limited the sentence.
She said she would appeal against the sentence.