A woman who says she was kidnapped and put up for sale on the dark web claims she is free to tell the tale thanks to her Instagram feed.
Chloe Ayling, a 20-year-old glamour model, says she was drugged and stuffed into a suitcase after being tricked into visiting Milan for a fake photo shoot in July.
Ayling gave an interview outside her home in London over the weekend in which she came forward as the model in question, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The police have confirmed that a 20-year-old English model was kidnapped but have not specifically named Ayling.
Photos of Ayling:
They said the victim spent almost a week in the hands of a gang known as Black Death. The gang touted her as a sex slave to the highest bidder on underground websites, according to officers.
The Italian police posted photographs of the home where the kidnapping took place and a reconstructed image showing how the victim was crammed into a suitcase.
A police reconstruction showing a person inside the bag seized by the Italian police. The closed bag is shown in the bottom left. (Polizia di Stato/Reuters)
But she says she escaped the gang relatively unharmed, after it realized from her social-media profile that it had violated its honor code by kidnapping her.
The gang has a strict rule against kidnapping mothers, Ayling said. Photos buried deep in her Instagram feed showing her alongside her 1-year-old son apparently persuaded her captors to let her go.
Ayling described the moment of realisation in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera:
After a few minutes a man came back in the room with his face uncovered, (the Polish man) and he said to me in English that their boss was furious, as they had captured the wrong person.
I shouldn't have been caught, as their boss had seen some of my Instagram photos where it was clear that I'm a mom with a child, and that's against the organisation, which operates on the deep web dealing with various crimes, from drug dealing to hits; auctions for kidnapped girls apparently start at $300,000 worth of bitcoin.
Ayling's Instagram feed, which has not been updated since the day before the police say the kidnapping took place, is mainly suggestive photographs from various photo shoots.
But after almost 150 such images are a string of photographs Ayling posted with her son, who will be 2 in November, and earlier images in which she is heavily pregnant.
A note circulating online, believed to have been written by the gang, appears to corroborate Ayling's story. The text, published in full by MailOnline, mentions the fact she is a mother and also claims she had the support of a senior gang member.
The relevant part says:
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.
Authorities arrested one person, Lukasz Herba, a Polish man who lives in the UK, in Italy in connection to the kidnapping case.
Authorities in Britain, Italy, and Poland are investigating further.
Photos from the investigation: