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Saturday 21 July 2018

Court video shows British kidnapping case model retracing movements

Lukasz Herba denies kidnapping 20-year-old Chloe Ayling in Milan last summer.

Video evidence of British model Chloe Ayling is played in court (AP)
Video evidence of British model Chloe Ayling is played in court (AP)

By Colleen Barry

Video of British model Chloe Ayling retracing her movements from a Milan studio where she was allegedly abducted to a farmhouse where she was held for six days has been played at the trial of a Polish man accused of kidnapping her.

In the video, 20-year-old Ms Ayling walks Italian investigators through the supposed photographer’s studio in Milan where her agent had arranged a modelling job. She signalled to police a spot near a doorway where she said she was grabbed from behind.

Images shown to the court in Milan revealed Ms Ayling’s suitcase, phone and clothing which were found by police investigating her disappearance last July.

According to prosecutors, Ms Ayling was drugged at the studio, zipped inside a canvas bag and transported to a farmhouse near Turin, where she was held captive.

Only two suspects have been identified in the case. A 30-year-old Pole, Lukasz Herba, who was arrested after releasing Ms Ayling at the British consulate in Milan, is being tried for the kidnapping. Italian prosecutors are also seeking to try Herba’s brother, who is in the UK.

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Ms Ayling led investigators through the spot she was allegedly abducted in the video (AP)

Investigator Gianluca Simontacchi told the court that Ms Ayling broke down in tears as they reached the farmhouse, and had to be calmed by her lawyer before being able to continue.

Inside the building, she pointed out a piece of furniture where she said she had been cuffed by her hands and feet overnight on the first night.

She then showed a bedroom, where she said later she shared a bed with her alleged kidnapper; a photograph entered into evidence showed a blanket folded to create a boundary down the middle of the bed.

Finally, she showed investigators where she accompanied her kidnapper to buy food and a pair of trainers in a nearby town before her release.

In court testimony, a grocery store owner’s son said that Herba had come to the store several times to buy fruit and vegetables, and that Ms Ayling waited outside once.

A neighbour of the farmhouse where she was held testified that he had seen Ms Ayling with Herba at least twice, and from a distance it looked like they were a couple.

Ms Ayling’s lawyer, Francesco Pesce, dismissed any notion that a video showing Ayling walking hand-in-hand with Herba shown at an earlier hearing cast any doubt on the kidnapping allegation.

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Lukasz Herba, from Poland, is charged with kidnapping Ms Ayling for ransom (AP)

“She was holding hands with Mr Herba but she looked, at least in my opinion, she looked frightened, quite scared,” he said.

A police toxicologist testified that tests of Ms Ayling’s hair indicated the presence of the drug ketamine, under the influence of which one remains conscious but disassociated from reality. The expert said there was a tiny hole on Ms Ayling’s inner wrist consistent with an injection, but she said there was no way of knowing precisely when the drug had been administered.

“It corresponds perfectly with the picture we have of Miss Ayling,” she said, showing a photograph of the model with her eyes half-closed and her pupils dilated, which was allegedly circulated on the internet.

Herba’s lawyer, Bozena Katia Kolakowska, said his client would testify at the next hearing, and that he is expected to say that the kidnapping was a ploy to give Ms Ayling’s modelling career a boost.

Press Association

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