The mysterious online criminal syndicate behind the kidnapping of a British model has boasted of its ‘huge generosity’ in letting her go ‘because she is a mother’.
It emerged this morning how the woman was drugged, handcuffed and loaded into a car boot in Milan before being driven 120 miles to a farmhouse in Turin where she was kept for six days.
But the organisation, known as Black Death, then performed the u-turn and took her back to Milan, warning in a letter she would be ‘eliminated’ if she went to the police or spoke negatively about them.
The woman, 20, whose identity has not been revealed, was held prisoner for a week after being drugged with ketamine, authorities said.
At a sensational police press conference in Milan her captor was named as Polish-born Lukasz Herba, 30, who is accused of trying to sell her on the internet for 300,000 Euros (£270,000) through bitcoin.
When officers arrested him he was found in possession of a pamphlet on Black Death which offers the sexual services of women for auction on the dark web.
A picture supposedly uploaded to the organisation’s website showed a topless woman tied up alongside details including measurements and nationality in an apparent advertisement – although the image is believed to have been taken from an unrelated pornographic film.
Police say the British model was lured to an abandoned shop near Milan’s Central Station with the promise of a photoshoot, only to be drugged, handcuffed and put in a suitcase.
Corriere della Sera reported the model had been lured to the fake shoot from Paris and was then loaded into the back of a car and driven to an abandoned shop south of Milan, before she was then taken on to a farmhouse near Turin 120 miles away.
It is thought she was kept in the bag for two-and-a-half hours and stayed in Turin for six days. Reports in Italy say Herba told officers he had sex with the model – police are still investigating the claim.
According to media reports, Herba rented the cottage in Turin telling the property’s owner that he was an artist who wanted to find ‘inspiration’ for his paintings.
Italian police say the offender demanded 50,000 Euros (£45,000) to free her and ‘threatened to kill her’ if she told officers what happened to her.
Authorities said the kidnappers were going to release her ‘because she had a two-year-old child’ and their ‘rules exclude kidnapping mothers’.
In a letter sent to the victim upon her release, Black Death told her that a ‘mistake’ had been made in capturing her.
It added that she had been let go after one of its men made ‘a clear and solid stance in your case’.
Officers seized Herba, who is believed to live in the West Midlands, near the British Consulate on July 17 as he was accompanying the model there and said he confessed to the crime.
Police said she was held for a week in abandoned offices in the city and officers are now looking for accomplices after the model told them she was ‘attacked by two people’.
Prosecutors in Italy said Herba was linked to the ‘Black Death’ criminal organisation that works on the dark web.
They also alleged Herba had dealings in ‘chemicals and poisons’ as he faced a pre-trial hearing before magistrate Anna Magelli in Milan on Friday.
Reports in Italy said the woman has given statements to police and prosecutors aided by lawyers from the British Consulate.
A Milan court heard the woman arrived in Milan on July 11 and was seized near the central station when she was drugged with ketamine.
Prosecutors described the kidnapping as a ‘very well-organised seizure’ and added he was contacted over the internet two days later with requests to ‘buy’ her for sexual purposes.
Police say they are still unclear whether the kidnappers were running an online scam to con ‘buyers’ out of money or whether they actually intended to sell her on.
Officers went through Herba’s phone and computer and said they found photos of the woman and material stating she was for sale, while hair from both the model and Herba was found in the boot of his car.
It is understood the police investigation involved reconstructing the kidnapping scene and studying CCTV footage from the area.
They also traced his mobile phone and tracked down a taxi driver who gave him a lift and were able to lie in wait at the Consulate for him.
But reports in La Stampa alleged Herba had contacted the model’s agent and demanded the same £270,000 price for her freedom.
The agent then contacted police and Herba reportedly negotiated a £50,000 ransom with them which he expected to receive at the Consulate.
The Foreign Office confirmed it was providing assistance to the woman in Italy and is also cooperating with local authorities.
Neighbours confirmed that Lukasz lived alone in a small block of flats off a residential street in Oldbury, Birmingham.
They reported that police had search the property two weeks ago, but that Lukasz himself had not been there for three weeks.
According to neighbours he would come and go often, speeding up to the front of the building in a red Toyota wearing a suit.
One neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘Police came here about two weeks ago and kicked the door down.
‘It was 2:30 in the morning and really loud. I had no idea what was going on, and I jumped out of bed to see them smashing their way into the flat.
‘I never really used to talk to him as he was often out. As far as I know he lived alone. I never saw anyone else go into the flat.
‘I had no idea he had travelled to Milan. I was completely shocked to hear about him being arrested.’
Another neighbour, who works as a quality controller for Dreams bedroom store, said: ‘The last time I saw him was three weeks ago.
‘He used to drive a red Toyota and come racing up to the front door before driving off again about half an hour later. He was never in the flat for long.
‘He was always dressed in suits, but he never said anything. He never gave the impression of being friendly.’
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: ‘We have been providing consular support to a British woman in Italy and are in touch with local authorities.’