By Sarah Bell Victoria Derbyshire programme
Model Chloe Ayling was held captive in Italy for six days last year but when she returned to the UK, some people were sceptical about her story. She told Victoria Derbyshire how she escaped and how she copes with people doubting her.
After two days of being chained to a chest of drawers, Chloe Ayling agreed to share a bed with her captor.
“The more we started talking, the more the bond was kind of forming and once I realised he was starting to like me, I knew I had to use that to my advantage,” she says.
Ms Ayling, 20, from south London, says she was lured to Milan on the promise of a photoshoot by Lukasz Herba, 30, last July.
But she was injected with the drug ketamine, stripped, handcuffed, stuffed in a holdall bag, driven 120 miles (193km) in the boot of a car to a remote farmhouse.
Ms Ayling says it was “horrendous” when she arrived at the house and Herba said she would be sold as a sex slave unless she found 300,000 euros (£265,000).
“I thought what he was saying was all true and I didn’t doubt him for a second because he was so detailed in responses to my questions,” she says.
But he also asked her if he could kiss her and if they could have a relationship.
“I thought this is my chance to get out,” Ms Ayling says.
“Once I saw his reaction to what I was saying that things could happen in the future – he was acting excited and really looking forward to it and always talking about it – it was that response that made me realise I needed to keep doing that.”
When he realised the ransom was not going to be paid, he released her and drove her to the British consulate in Milan.
While they were waiting for it to open, witnesses reported seeing them laughing and joking in a cafe.
It might seem strange, Ms Ayling says, “but why would you be ‘offish’ with the person who is starting to have feelings for you and is relying on that to release you?
“I had to do everything I could to make him fall in love with me.”
Herba, a Polish national, was jailed in June for 16 years and nine months following a trial at a court in Milan.
In his defence, Herba said he had previously met Ms Ayling and had fallen in love with her. He claimed he wanted to create a scandal to help her career by creating extra publicity.
“I still don’t fully understand his motivation,” she says. “It can’t just be money as why [pick] me and he added me on Facebook two years ago, it’s like he’s been stalking me for that long so it must be obsession as well.”
When she returned to the UK after her release she spoke to TV reporters outside her home – some people criticised her for appearing happy, as well as for the outfit she had chosen to wear.
She says she was happy to be home which she had feared would never happen – and had just got off a plane in shorts and a top.
“I was just being me. I went to the reporters because I thought that would make them go away, but it didn’t really work,” she explains.
“People expect me to be crying all the time and shutting myself off from the world, not facing any cameras. I could have chosen to do that but I thought how is that going to help me recover. By talking about it, by being around people was my way of getting over it and moving on.”
Defending herself against criticism that she appears unemotional, she says she tries to detach herself.
“It’s an indescribable feeling of not knowing if you’re going to get your freedom back and I don’t like to think about that. So I tend to stick to the facts so I don’t have to think about how I felt at the time,” she says.
Ms Ayling, who has written a book about her ordeal, says it is ridiculous that people continued to doubt her even after Herba’s conviction. She blames the media for brainwashing people and says she gets most abuse from women.
“Once they’ve realised someone is controversial they just try and dig deeper and deeper and try and make people hate that person even more as that’s what will get the views.”
“It is hurtful because I didn’t expect to go through something so bad and be disbelieved by your own country.”