‘I thought I’d have to sleep with him’
SHE was drugged, kidnapped, told she would be sold as a sex slave and threatened with death.
Then, when she finally made it to safety, many cast doubt on her shocking story.
Now, Chloe Ayling has the vindication she deserves, with the conviction of her abductor Lukasz Herba and a court's public acknowledgment that she was telling the truth.
Speaking for the first time since Herba, 30, was jailed in Italy for 16 years for the kidnap, Chloe, 21, from Coulsdon, South London, told The Sun of her joy that he has been put behind bars - and that she is no longer considered a liar.
"It's a huge relief because I feel like my life has been on hold," she said.
"It was six days of hell - and then I had to deal with all the disbelief once I got home. I feel happy now that everyone knows I was telling the truth."
Chloe also revealed how in a bid to stay alive, she told herself she had to be willing to sleep with her kidnapper to keep him on side.
The nightmare began in July last year, when the glamour model travelled to Milan for what she believed was a photo shoot.
Instead, at the photo studio she was injected with horse tranquilliser ketamine by a man in a ski mask, stuffed into a suitcase and smuggled to a remote Italian farmhouse.
Her kidnapper later claimed Chloe was an accomplice to the abduction, and had gone along with it to boost her profile.
But Chloe hit back: "The media were quoting this crazy guy in the headlines and people were reading it as the truth. They had no idea how crazy this guy is."
Recalling the moment she was snatched, she said: "Suddenly this man has his hand on my mouth - covering my nose.
"And then another man ran in front of me with a mask on. I saw he had a syringe.
"When I woke up I was so drugged. Slowly as I regained consciousness, I realised I was in the back of a car.
"I had no idea why they were taking me. Everything went through my head - are they going to rape me? Are they going to kill me?"
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HOW IT ALL HAPPENED
APRIL 21, 2017: Chloe travels for a shoot in Paris booked through her modelling agent. She meets Lukasz Herba who booked the shoot. The session is postponed after a gun attack in the city.
JULY 11: Chloe goes to studio in Milan for rearranged shoot. She is drugged and taken to a remote farmhouse.
JULY 12: Police storm the fake studio and find Chloe's clothes and passport.
JULY 15: Captive Chloe is taken shopping by Herba, who buys her trainers.
JULY 17: Herba hands Chloe over to the British Consulate, ordering her to tell them he is a friend.
FEBRUARY 7, 2018: Herba's trial starts in Milan.
JUNE 11: Herba is convicted of kidnapping and drugging Chloe. He is jailed for 16 years and nine months.
JUNE 22: His brother Michal Herba, 37, is extradited to Italy to stand trial for his alleged part in the kidnap.
The masked man was Herba, who lived in Birmingham and worked as a computer programmer, but told Chloe that he was a hitman.
He also informed her he worked for an international human trafficking ring called Black Death and that she would be auctioned off on the dark web as a sex slave.
The mum-of-one says she was only able to escape by forming a bond with Polish-born fantasist Herba, who eventually released her to the British consulate in Milan.
Recalling the lengths she would have gone to in order to save herself from Herba, who boasted about killing people with poison, Chloe revealed: "I thought I might have to sleep with him to survive.
"My only move to get out of there alive was to get him to like me."
And Chloe believes that if she hadn't given Herba hope of a romantic relationship, he could well have decided to kill her.
She revealed: "When he asked to kiss me I didn't say no. I didn't want to upset him. Instead I would say, 'Maybe in the future.'
"I thought that if I gave him what he wanted that there would be no point in him releasing me.
"I could see that he was happy about it so I continued to put it off.
"If he hadn't reacted in that way, then maybe I would have gone through with it."
Chloe, who has a two-year-old son, is remarkably composed as she relives her ordeal. She explained: "I've always been like that. I don't like showing my emotions. In this situation that's why people probably don't believe me."
In fact, when Chloe first arrived home in the UK, this coolness immediately raised eyebrows.
Advised by her former management to give a statement to the world's media outside her home, Chloe stepped out in skimpy hotpants and tank top and posed while smiling.
She said of the criticism: "Of course I was happy. I was finally home. Wouldn't anyone be happy getting home after something like that?
"People criticised what I was wearing but it was such a hot day in Italy and I was literally wearing what I'd worn on the plane, which was shorts and a top."
But when more details of her story emerged - including grainy CCTV footage of Chloe and Herba holding hands on a shopping trip - she was met with increasing disbelief.
But Chloe was just going along with Herba's demands, and trying to keep him happy - because by that stage he had told her he would release her.
Chloe said: "Yes, his behaviour was weird but I don't know why I'm the one that's supposed to be able to explain it.
"He told me we were going shoe shopping because I'd need shoes to walk to the consulate in Milan when he released me.
"He asked me to hold hands and I was hardly going to say no. He had so much power over me.
"He was never violent but he would often show me his knife as a veiled threat. I knew not to mess with him." Chloe's voice was shaking as she added: "I discovered he had been trying to create ricin and cyanide at home before the kidnapping.
"Imagine if I'd done something differently - it could have ended very badly."
Knowing how much was at stake, Chloe says she was even able to remain stoic when her captor first told her she was to be sold on the dark web by the trafficking ring.
Chloe, who will release a book about her ordeal next month, said: "He told me that Black Death auctioned girls online for men in the Middle East.
"He told me that the girls are used for sex and then when they're done with them they're fed to their tigers."
But during their six days together, as Herba set about arranging the auction, the kidnapper developed strong feelings for Chloe, which led to him freeing her.
Herba, who had followed the model on Facebook, later said: "I was in love and I was hoping that once her fame took off that she would repay me with feelings."
Chloe told The Sun: "I think it must have been a mixture of wanting to get money and being obsessive about me.
"But it must have been money as well. I think he genuinely thought he would sell me as a sex slave.
"Apparently there were genuine emails of interest."
Chloe is now awaiting the trial of Herba's alleged accomplice, his brother Michal, 37, who was extradited to Italy on Friday.
In the meantime she is getting back to normality with her son Ashton. She said: "My son is my priority. I do think the experience has made me more protective as a parent.
"It opens your eyes to all the evil there is out there."
Chloe is not sure what life holds next - rumours of an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother have been circulating but she says she is still considering her options.
But whatever she decides on, the model knows she will be able to handle it.
She said: "My experience has made me a lot stronger and a lot wiser. Nothing seems like a challenge to me any more."