The British model who police say was kidnapped in Italy last summer to be auctioned online as a sex slave suffered physical violence - including being drugged and "brutally transported inside a suitcase," according to Italian investigators.
The grim details on the alleged abduction of Chloe Ayling were revealed Wednesday during the trial of 30-year-old Lukasz Pawel Herba, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
Herba, a Pole who lives part-time in England, was charged with kidnapping Ayling in July after she was lured from London to a fake photo shoot at an abandoned storefront in Milan, according to Italian police.
As reported by The Washington Post, Ayling said last summer that her kidnappers were preparing to "auction" her on the dark Web, a part of the internet where user identities are hidden through encryption, allowing them to buy and sell criminal goods. The kidnappers were trying to sell Ayling, 20, on the internet as a sex slave for $US300,000, according to Italian police and media accounts.
Ayling told Italian investigators at the time that she was drugged, gagged, bound and stuffed into a duffel bag, then transported in the trunk of a car to a remote farmhouse outside Turin. There, she slept with her hands and feet tied to furniture, the investigators said.
During Herba's trial Wednesday, investigators said the model was put under "psychological pressures" during the abduction, ANSA reported. Herba was arrested July 17, shortly after freeing Ayling and dropping her off at the British consulate in Milan, police said. British and Italian media reported that the kidnappers freed Ayling after learning she was the mother of a 2-year-old boy.
Herba's brother, Michal Konrad Herba, is also accused in the kidnapping and was arrested in Britain last summer. He is awaiting extradition from England, according to ANSA.
Ayling described the kidnapping in a statement to police last summer, which was published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera:
"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.
"I think I lost consciousness. When I woke up I was wearing a pink bodysuit and the socks I'm in now. I realised 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."
She screamed and struggled so loudly, she said, that her kidnappers had to pull over three times to try to silence her while en route to their safe house.
Ayling's lawyer in Italy, Francesco Pesce, said last summer that he was stumped as to why Ayling was dropped off at the British consulate.
"She suffered a lot. It was an awful experience . . . and to believe that she would never see her family again," he told the Guardian.
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter