MILAN - An Italian court convicted a Polish man Monday of kidnapping a 20-year-old British model for ransom, rejecting the defendant’s claim that the abduction was staged to boost the victim’s career.
The court handed Lukasz Herba a prison sentence of 16 years and nine months - a month longer than prosecutors had requested. Herba denied guilt throughout the trial, even as his story shifted, and left the courtroom in handcuffs without comment.
The lawyer for British model Chloe Ayling, Francesco Pesce, called it “quite an important verdict.” Pesce said Ayling was considering possible civil action in British courts against media outlets that suggested she had lied to become famous.
“There were many cases in which she was publicly shamed about this,” Pesce said.
The six-day kidnapping last July garnered global attention after it emerged that Herba had told Ayling he worked with a group that auctioned off young women on encrypted internet sites. He also claimed international intelligence experience from agencies such as Mossad and CIA.
Beyond the dramatic details - a model lured to Italy’s fashion capital, drugged, zipped in a canvas bag and held for ransom in a secluded farmhouse - omissions in Ayling’s early statements to investigators and her career as a “glamour model” specializing in scantily clad or topless shoots created opportunities for sensationalism.
Defense lawyer Katia Kolakowska expressed disappointment that the court did not take into account that Ayling emerged from the ordeal physically unharmed. Kolakowska said that would have limited the sentence to between one and eight years. She said she would appeal.
In his closing arguments, prosecutor Paolo Storari cited the possibility that Ayling could have died during the July 11-17, 2017 kidnapping in seeking a lengthy prison sentence for Herba. He said the drug, ketamine, combined with her enclosure in the bag and the time she spent in the farm house near Turin chained to furniture, could have caused a fatal reaction.
In London, Ayling’s current agent Adrian Sington said the verdict was “vindication - her story is true.”