“Publicity Stunt” Kidnapper Sentenced to 201 Months in Prison
An Italian court sentenced Lukasz Herba to 16 years and nine months in prison for kidnapping former Instagram model Chloe Ayling in Milan, Italy. The Polish man, according to Ayling’s statements, had lured her to Italy for a nonexistent photoshoot and then kidnapped her. Herba, along with other assailants, told her they worked as hitmen and mercenaries for a human trafficking Group that auctioned women on the darknet. Later, in court, he denied any affiliation with the human trafficking Group.
The numerous changes in his story, even though he admitted that he had fictionalized the human trafficking Group narrative and had never intended to hurt Ayling, obviously harmed his case. Despite a similar abundance of circumstantial evidence that made Ayling’s narrative sound equally fictional, the prosecution believed that Herba had truly kidnapped Ayling. And Italian authorities listened to the prosecution; the prosecution asked for a prison sentence of 16 years. The court sentenced the man to 16 years and nine months—longer than the prosecution had even requested.
Herba, according to Ayling, had told her that he had kidnapped her at the request of a human trafficking Group called the “Black Death Group.” After abducting Ayling, he posted pictures of Ayling on a hidden service allegedly affiliated with this Group. He similarly forwarded pictures to Ayling’s wealthy associates in an attempt to ransom her for large amounts of money. Eventually, Ayling told the police in statements later released to the press, Herba had allowed her to leave in exchange for a payment at a later date. He told her that the Black Death Group had no interest in kidnapping young mothers. And Ayling, as seen on her Instagram account, had a young child.
Ayling may have believed that Herba had worked for this human trafficking Group that sold girls to buyers through the darknet. She may not have believed Herba but used Herba’s own words against him. Or, as Herba claimed, she may have been in on the entire kidnapping from the start. Herba, at one point, claimed that Ayling had helped her create the ransom notes and cover story. But after news of what had happened became public, researchers pointed out that the Black Death Group had never existed beyond a static webpage set up by Herba or one of his alleged associates. Europol had once looked into the Group and found that it was little more than an urban legend. We covered the timeline of events given by Ayling. Another researcher debunked the Black Death Group myth in his own investigation.
”I am very pleased and relieved by the outcome of today’s hearing and feel that justice has been served and I can get closure on what has been a terrible time for me,” Ayling said.
Even though the Black Death Group may not have existed outside of the minds of practical jokers and then a delusional Polish man, the Italian court concluded that Herba had in fact kidnapped Ayling and that Ayling could have been seriously harmed during the kidnapping. Herba’s lawyer said that if the court had taken into account that Ayling had not been harmed during the alleged publicity stunt, Herba would have been sentenced to a maximum of eight years.
Ayling has moved to the United States where she will undoubtedly pursue her former career alongside her newfound desire to speak against human trafficking. Herba’s brother will likely be extradited to Italy where he faces a similar fate. The other three assailants have not been identified.