Chloe Ayling, the model kidnapped by alleged operatives of a darknet human trafficking ring, recently announced a book “exposing every detail of the ordeal.” She signed the book deal as hastily as she fired her modelling agent to replace him with a celebrity speaking agent. Given the few details provided by Ayling, combined with the seemingly contradictory ones provided by witnesses, many discredited every word out of her mouth. And thus, a question emerges: what ordeal will she expose?
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Will Ayling add nails to her own coffin by further fictionalizing the details of her trip to Milan? If not fictionalizing the entire “ordeal,” will she further embellish it? Or will she expose herself as a liar and that the would-be photoshoot was a publicity stunt? The alleged kidnapper’s brother, now a suspect, had no role in the publicity “sham,” his lawyer said. This should not come as a surprise.
Not that she had never traveled to Milan; she traveled to a studio that “checked out” for a photoshoot with a fake photographer. The studio had never existed, her former agent, Phil Green, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain after the model accused him of performing “improper checks.” He said that he had thought he had sent her to a “proper photo shoot in a studio… Nothing was flagged up to say anything was suspicious.”
A statement on the website of Ayling’s new agency titled “Chloe Ayling Exclusively Appoints Kruger Cowne Commercial Sentation and Guidance”
“Chloe recognises she is not an expert witness, but she speaks from the heart on her first-hand experiences and her account of the event and how she, as a young woman, dealt with the incredible mental anguish and overcame her fears sufficiently to gain her release is an inspiring and empowering lesson of the darker side of life which she now wishes to share to empower others – a young woman surviving on her inner strength.”
Yet, when he later looked for the information that he had used to verify the legitimacy of the photoshoot, he found in support of his claim that it had “checked out.” Ayling had spoken with Lukasz Herba, her alleged kidnapper and photographer, months prior to her Milan ordeal. Her former agent had publicly documented a prior connection between Ayling and Herba. She had met Herba in April for a photoshoot in Paris.
Herba, known as a photographer named Andre Lazio, had first met Ayling “at the time of terror attack in Paris,” the official statement explained. Andre had posed as a photographer anything with a fictional company known as “Bellissmafique.” He requested Ayling for a motorbike advertisement. Andre (Herba) paid the agent up front and booked Ayling a reservation at Hotel Madeline in the Fifth Arrondissement. He did the same for the Milan photoshoot. Posing as Andre, the photographer for a motorbike advertisement, Herba hired her again. And paid up front.
“I can’t say too much because Chloe is being debriefed by British police and the Foreign Office, but she did know the man who kidnapped her,” a friend of Ayling told the Mail Online.
Although we touched on the motorbike advertisement bit, this much of a connection between Herba, the agency, and Ayling only recently became pubic knowledgeable. Green, the former agent, seemingly forgot to research this non-existent photographer prior to the Paris shoot as well as the Milan one.
In Milan, wearing a pink leather jacket and carrying her iPhone and wallet in one hand, Ayling walked towards the “studio.” Out of nowhere, she reported, someone grabbed her from behind and choked her as a masked attacker injected her with ketamine, rendering her unconscious. Although not before the assailant got the needle through her leather jacket. One of many pieces of information that, according to Italian police investigators, “did not add up.”
And, although nothing here is evidence—yet—to continue to treat Ayling as a suspect, the circumstantial oddities allowed Italian authorities to hold her for three weeks, after seizing her passport. She claimed, repeatedly, that Italian police believed her story. And many British tabloids ate it up. Unsurprisingly, Italian newspapers threw the most doubt. Especially the papers that reveal investigators questioning her statements.
“But don’t you think it is strange to go and buy shoes with your kidnapper,” an investigator asked her unexpectedly. in response, she cried.
Herba Craved Attention Too
In a conversation with the Mirror, one of Herba’s former flatmates shed light on a brief period of time from the alleged kidnapper’s past. In West Bromwich, 10 years ago, the anonymous source said he and Lukasz moved in together at a similar age. “We were both quite ambitious and he would say that before he was 30 he wanted to have a load of money and fame,” the flatmate said. “He would say, ‘I want to do something big one day’. He always had big plans and wanted to be a big deal.”
Noting that Herba was 30 at the time of the statement, the anonymous source explained that Herba had fallen in with the wrong crowd. “The first thing I thought was odd was when he showed me his fake Polish ID with a different name. It seemed weird,” he said. Even weirder, “he told me he was registering on a number of websites to go out with older, rich women.”
The source sounded as if he had spoken with Herba recently.
She Counted Her Kidnappers Incorrectly
She said, during the same interview, that “the total number of people who participated in harming me up until this morning when I came to the consulate was five.” She conveniently only saw the faces of two people. In the vehicle, she said there were two men. One wore a mask and the other did not. The one without a mask spoke English well, she said, “he was about 40-years-old, much taller than me… and had features that could be Polish…” Although Lukasz was Polish, she said that this man was someone other than Lukasz.
Later on, towards the end of her statement, an investigator and her how many people were connected with her kidnapping. She responded, “Apart from the first three, there was also a fourth person who used the nickname Andre who is the guy who accompanied me today to the consulate.”
In spite of her attempts to embellish the story or fictionalize it outright, Italian police had only looked for one additional suspect—someone seen on CCTV footage with Lukasz: his brother, Michal Konrad Herba. At this time, no proof existed of four or five kidnappers.
Updated information on Michal Konrad Herba at the bottom of this post.
Herba’s Business Cards
Herba gave Ayling a business card that she was to contact him with at some point within the month. This business card worked perfectly for handing out to strangers in the street to spread the news that the Black Death Group sells women on the darknet. According to Chloe:
“The guy who came with me today is called MD. Here is a business card MD gave me which has an email address which I was supposed to contact to get information, which I personally had to give to mass media to publicise Black Death kidnapped girls are sold from prices starting at $300,000.”
That is an entirely useful card when, aside from the Torbox email (“Contact via DeepWeb [email protected]”), it had only two other words: Permanent Solution. Makes sense.
A man from Birmingham allegedly received one of these cards and turned it over to a tabloid.
Black Death Group’s Ridiculous History
This one was extensively covered on pirate dot london. And additionally by Europol, although as the author of the post on pirate dot london pointed out, Europol’s data is a little messy with obviously faked history. The online portion of the history is the relevant aspect. The Black Death Group appeared to truly launch (both “truly” and “launch” meaning not a fabricated tale of existing in the darknet as early as 2010). Deku_Shrub, the blog’s author pointed to a comment on an UnderDir listing for the Black Death Group that stood out for several potential reasons.
“delete us we dont want to be public,” a user with the fitting username “blackdeathgroup” posted. They marked the sure a scam one minute later.
Deku_Shrub also pointed to a conclusion shared by Europol:
“25 May 2016 — Europol report suggests the site is simply displaying the ‘Web site has moved. Existing customers has been provided with new address’. They likely moved to u5wk4o*******.onion at this point which ran from 30 May 2016. (See Freedom Hosting II)”
The theme of shilling while reportedly growing too popular and then switching to a new .onion address seems to be repeated continually. But Europol’s theory is worth pursuing too; the blog’s author hosts the Freedom Hosting 2 dump and can see the contents of the databases of the two Black Death Group .onion address: no database or empty databases. Obviously the content seen on the Black Death Group sites came from somewhere.
The Black Death Group at the 4c7******.onion domain went offline in July 8, 2017, according to UnderDir. Yet, adding to the absurd narrative already developed, British tabloids received emails the following day titled “British Model Kidnapped by Russian Mafia.” This is two days prior to the model’s alleged abduction.
She initially explained she had not left the house during her six day house arrest. Yet, reports of her leaving the house to go shoe shopping emerged soon after her story broke. A shop owner recognized the duo from pictures on the news. Another, at a restaurant where Ayling and her kidnapper ate breakfast. The unidentified person reported that she thought the two were a couple.
When confronted about this by the Italian police investigators, she broke down crying. She explained that she had convinced Herba that they had grown closer than they really had. She claimed that she refused his sexual advances, but led him to believe that once freed, he would have a chance with her. The two had developed a trusting relationship, she later explained. On the second night, she shared a bed with him and did so every night until release.
Because of this trusting relationship, Herba revealed previously unheard secrets of the Black Death Group. For instance, he explained that the group had 20 “levels.” He had reached level 12. The other kidnappers were level one, he explained. He said that he had made $17 million trading women and that he had already been paid for catching her.
Later, once his “boss” found out that the woman—who uses a public Instagram account with pictures of her two-year-old son—was a mother, he “got angry.” The group, who Herba had said would kill her if she tried to escape, had an apparent policy against trafficking mothers.
They clarified this in a very threatening letter to her, reminding her how huge a generosity. group had provided her by releasing her. Sensible. One can tell that the author of the letter cares about mothers and dislikes cruelty:
“You are being released as a huge generosity from Black Death Group. Your release does, however, come with a warning and you should read this letter very carefully. You are certainly aware of your value on human slavery market (sic) and must make a note that this isn’t personal, this is business.”
“For your release we have taken a number of factors into consideration. A mistake was made by capturing you, especially considering you are a young mother that should have in no circumstances be lured into kidnapping. Second important factor (sic) you are very well aware of is your overall protection by one of our main and very well respected men who made a very clear and solid stance in your case.”
“You will, upon your landing in your home country cease any investigation activities related to your kidnapping. You also agreed to sneak a pre-determined set of information into the media and we will expect to see evidence that has been done in the near future.”
“Ceasing investigation” is a potentially interesting choice of words.
Additionally, her letter required that she not “talk about [the group] in bad language and without respect.” However, Herba—who undoubtedly wrote the letter as one of the two “kidnappers” involved—also wanted her to share the business card and that the Black Death Group offers human trafficking. That is not exactly something you would expect to hear in the opposite of “bad language.”
She claimed that she had not eaten until the final day as she did not trust him with the food. He bought her chocolates, though. It is not clear if she survived on chocolate alone or also only ate the chocolate on her final day in Herba’s custody.
The thoughtful kidnapper decided that he would carry her all the way to the British embassy. And of course, given Ayling was missing and the police had been looking for her, Herba walked right into the arms of the police. And he handled the interrogation as would any professional hitman with “6 years military, spetsnaz experience” and “5 years private military company experience.”
He told police that he was, in fact a hired killer. Also that he had operated the entire Black Death darknet site. Then recanted the killer part and explained that “the Romanians” forced him to kidnap her. And then that the Romanians had not forced him to kidnap her, but that they had offered him $500,000 to capture her. Ironically, the Romanians would have lost money on that transaction, given the ransom amount was $300,000.
Last but not least, Herba had developed leukemia and needed money for cancer treatments. The $17 million dollars that he had earned by kidnapping women likely went into his synthetic chicken feed company—an international business that he “owned.” (His girlfriend discovered that he had not actually travelled to Texas on a business trip during his one month absence).
So, will the book contain a single iota of truth? More importantly, will she even make it until the book reaches publication? George Hepburne Scott, Michal Herba’s lawyer, good the court—on September 25—that “there is a real risk that the entire case is a sham.”
“The same complainant, it seems, generated publicity from the fact she was near the scene of a terrorist attack at the Champs-Elysees in Paris,” he added, implying that she may have fabricated the entire ordeal. As if she craved attention. “Prior to the release of the complainant, the kidnapper apparently issued a press release to a tabloid newspaper setting out that this lady was being held for auction.”
“This case has a unique set of anomalies which might lead to the conclusion that the Italian authorities have been duped and that their process has been abused,” Scott told judge overseeing Michal Herba’s extradition case.
Did she get kidnapped? If her trip to Milan had included a “get kidnapped” pitstop—one where she explicitly had no desire to get kidnapped—the gravity of the situation seems to have evaded her thought process. And emotional stability. Those are poor indicators for determining whether or not she is telling the truth. But combined with the lies told by both Herba and Ayling, truth likely falls behind fame, money, and attention—with respect to their priorities.
Why did the professional hitman let himself get arrested? No idea.