The story of Chloe Ayling, the British model who has come forward as the victim of a six-day kidnapping in Italy, continues to get stranger.
Her account is full of wild details – not least that she apparently has her Instagram to thank for her freedom because it convinced her captors that she is a mother and thus ineligible for kidnap.
But some parts of the account do raise questions about inconsistencies. Different sources – from the Italian, British, and international media, to police, lawyers, spokesmen and Ayling herself – are at odds with each other.
Here’s a rundown of some of the big questions hanging over Ayling’s ordeal:
Why did Ayling and her alleged kidnapper go shopping together?
Initial accounts of the kidnap focussed on the violence of it. Ayling described being grabbed, stuffed inside a bag, and later tied to furniture inside a home.
But later reports describe that she went outside on a shopping trip with suspect Lukasz Herba, during which he bought her shoes. Italian newspaper La Repubblica says that when police suggested to her that this was “strange” behaviour, she burst into tears.
In an interview with the Guardian, her lawyer Franesco Pesce said she went along with Herba’s plan and did not try to escape because she was scared.
He said: “Chloe told me that she was very scared and wanted to do everything she could to go along with everything in order to make [her captor] release her. It’s understandable, she was scared. I believe she was being brave, she was with a captor and didn’t know what to do.”
Why did her alleged kidnapper basically give himself up?
According to an account of her questioning by police in The Daily Telegraph, Herba was arrested by police at the British consulate in Milan after accompanying Ayling there himself.
He allegedly abandoned a plan to drop her off nearby in favour of walking there himself, which led to him being arrested. This is clearly inconsistent with carrying off a successful criminal operation.
Was her kidnapper in touch with the UK tabloid press?
Another claim made by The Daily Telegraph is that Herba contacted one of Britain’s biggest newspapers offering to sell his story to them two days into the kidnapping, which would be July 13.
The newspaper claimed he emailed the Daily Mirror with the subject line “‘British model kidnapped by Russian mafia” and asked for cash in exchange for his account and photographs of Ayling.
A spokesman for the Mirror confirmed receiving the email to Business Insider, but said there was “nothing in the email to suggest it was from the alleged kidnappers, nor was it an attempt to sell a story about a kidnap.”
Contacting the media is not consistent with the stated plan of selling her to wealthy Middle Eastern buyers under the radar.
At first, nothing was published. But a Mirror title was the first British outlet to carry Ayling’s story, several weeks after she was released.
The Sunday Mirror’s front page on August 6 read “Kidnapped Brit model auctioned for £230k”, and was marked as an “exclusive.” It did not name Ayling, but did name Herba and carried Italian police photographs of where she was held.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) August 5, 2017
Business Insider has contacted the Mirror for comment.
In Ayling’s defence
Ayling has stopped talking to the media for the time being. But Pesce, her lawyer, has been on a round of media appearances defending her credibility, after some outlets speculated that she somehow involved with the kidnapping.
He gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he described the story she told as “incredible” but “true”.
Later, appearing on Sky News, he said that if Italian police “had any doubts that she was involved in some extent they wouldn’t let her go back to England.”
He continued: “I believe that what Chloe stated is what actually happened. I have no doubts she told the truth, I believe she is telling the truth.”