A British model has been freed after reportedly being kidnapped in Italy by a shadowy online organisation known as the Black Death Group.
Chloe Ayling is said to have been abducted after she arrived at a photoshoot in Milan arranged by her agent.
The 20-year-old was drugged, stuffed inside a suitcase and transported to a remote Italian farmhouse close to Turin where she was held captive for six days.
It is alleged that two men attempted to sell Ayling as a sex slave on the dark web for more than $300,000 (€254,400), and demanded that her agent hand over cash in exchange for her safe release.
A Polish national who lives in the UK has been arrested in connected with the kidnapping, Italian police said.
Lukasz Herba, 30, is understood to have planned his crime from his two-bedroom apartment in the West Midlands.
He was arrested when he took Ayling to the British Consulate in Milan, after which he is said to have admitted the kidnapping.
It remains unclear why Ayling was released.
An Italian detective close to the investigation of the kidnapping commented: “She has not suffered any kind of violence.
“She says she was not sexually assaulted or raped. The author of this very serious crime is a dangerous person, he was also ready to carry out a ‘final solution’, as he called it.”
Herba, who has claimed he was forced to take part in the conspiracy against his will, is suspected of being a senior member of the Black Death Group, which has developed a reputation for selling kidnapped women on hidden websites, despite none of its alleged crimes ever being confirmed by law enforcement agencies.
The group is also said to be involved in the sale of drugs, weapons and contract killings on the dark web.
In July last year, Motherboard reported that members of the group had posted images of woman in chains it was offering for sale for $150,000.
It was later suggested the pictures the group used had been taken from a porn film.
IBTimes UK reports that Italian police found a note explaining why the group abducts women while searching properties linked to Herba in Milan and Turin.
“All our girls are set for actions only and are held in Europe. If you wish, we can kidnap a specific target for your needs. Service will be rather expensive, especially for targets outside Europe,” the note read.
Describing her ordeal in a police statement, Ayling explained how she was grabbed and injected with drugs when she arrived at what appeared to be a legitimate photoshoot.
She said she awoke to find herself bound and gagged in a bag in the boot of a car, only able to breathe through a small hole in the luggage her kidnappers had forced her into.
Speaking outside her home after being flown back to Britain, Ayling said: “I’ve been through a terrifying experience. I’ve feared for my life, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour.”